Incoming physician assistant students at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston will receive their white coats in a ceremony to welcome them into their new program of professional study.

During the Sept. 5 rite of passage at Levin Hall on the UTMB Galveston campus, 89 members of the physician assistant class of 2016 will don their white coats for the first time.

“The ceremony symbolically marks the beginning of a person’s career as a health care professional,” said Elizabeth Protas, dean of UTMB’s School of Health Professions. “It’s a significant milestone on their path to a very important role in the new health care landscape.”

Dr. Kimberly Brown, assistant professor in the Department of Surgery and director of the Surgical Simulation Center, will be the keynote speaker for the event. She and Dr. Robert Beach, Professor Emeritus of medicine, will cloak each student with a white coat.

At the closing of the ceremony, the students recite the PA professional oath, publicly acknowledging their new responsibilities and affirming their pledge to clinical excellence and health care.

UTMB’s department of physician assistant studies offers a master’s degree program that prepares professionals to practice medicine, with the supervision of a physician, in a wide range of settings, including primary care, specialty clinics, the emergency department and the operating room.

PAs are invaluable members of the health care team who conduct medical histories and physical examinations, order and interpret diagnostic tests, diagnose and treat health conditions, perform procedures and provide patient education and counseling services. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PAs to practice and prescribe medications.