White Coat Ceremony Signals Approach of Clinical Year for Third-year Veterinary Students

Friday, April 21, 2023

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DVM Class of 2024 pictured together at the White Coat Ceremony

A celebratory mood followed the conclusion of the Purdue Veterinary Medicine Open House Saturday, April 15, as third-year veterinary students changed clothes and switched gears from Open House volunteers to honorees at the annual White Coat Ceremony, which started at 5:00 p.m. Held at the Purdue Memorial Union North Ballroom, the annual ceremony signals the transition from the classroom to the clinics as the students prepare for the start of their clinical year of the four-year DVM program.

Dr. Fulkerson speaks from a podium in the Purdue Memorial Union Ballroom.
Dr. Chris Fulkerson presents a clinician’s insights at the White Coat Ceremony on April 15, 2023.

“This evening we recognize a ‘rite of passage’ for our third-year veterinary students,” Purdue Veterinary Medicine Dean Willie Reed said as he began the program. “Over 20 years ago, we conducted our first White Coat Ceremony. Since then, it has grown into a beloved annual tradition that the PVM community looks forward to with anticipation each spring.”

Dean Reed noted that the roots of the tradition date back to 1993, when the practice of holding a White Coat Ceremony was established at the Columbia University Medical School. “The event was designed to impress upon students, physicians, and the public, the important symbolic role of the white coat in patient-doctor interactions,” Dean Reed said. “Today, this ceremony is held not only in medical schools, but also in veterinary schools across the country.”

Dean Reed went on to explain that, for the members of the Class of 2024, the donning of the white coat symbolizes their new role as junior veterinarians. “This coat indicates your acceptance of the great responsibility you now have toward your patients and clients, as well as your commitment to show compassion and empathy, and to make a positive difference in the life of every animal and person with whom you come in contact.”

Dean Reed then introduced two guest speakers who each shared words of advice with the class, based on their own perspectives as mentors who had been in their shoes before. The first to speak was Dr. Chris Fulkerson, clinical associate professor and section head of Veterinary Medical Oncology, who was voted on by the class as the faculty member from whom they wanted to hear advice about entering their clinical year. The other speaker was current fourth-year student Zenobya (Zee) Clark. Both of the speakers encouraged the students to make the most of the unique learning opportunity that the clinical year of veterinary school affords them.

Zee speaks from the podium during the White Coat Ceremony
Zenobya (Zee) Clarke, of the DVM Class of 2023, shares words of wisdom as a current fourth year student.

Then, it was time for the students to line-up with their white coats in hand and one by one, as their names were called by Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Kathy Salisbury, proceed across the stage, and hand the garment to Dean Reed who then officially placed it on them and then stood with them for a keepsake photo. Also on stage was president of the Indiana Veterinary Medical Association and PVM alumnus, Dr. Greg Kurtz (PU DVM ’82), who presented each class member with an IVMA sponsored name badge to wear on their new white coats. Dr. Salisbury also shared with the students that in the pocket of each white coat, they would find a personal note from one of the numerous alumni and friends of the college who supported the ceremony by making a donation as a white coat sponsor.

As the class members stepped off the stage, they proceeded to risers set-up off to the side where they assembled for a commemorative class picture. 

Following the photo, the students returned to their seats as Dean Reed began the second part of the program, which involved the presentation of awards recognizing the special accomplishments of individual members of the class. Congratulations to the following award recipients:

Krysten Schmidt received the Dr. William W. Carlton Award for Aptitude in Veterinary Pathology. Established by Dr. William H. Jordan and his fellow alumni in the DVM Class of 1973 as a tribute to the late Dr. Bill Carlton, the Leslie Morton Hutchings Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Veterinary Pathology, the award recognizes a third-year veterinary student who has shown aptitude in the field of pathology through superior academic performance in pathology studies.

Avery Martin received the Indiana Horse Council Foundation Equine Industry Award. Chosen by peers, the awardee is recognized for providing other students with the greatest exposure to the equine industry.

Avery listens to the dean as she accepts her award onstage during the White Coat Ceremony
Avery Martin was recognized with the Indiana Horse Council Foundation Equine Industry Award.

Maggie Prichett received the Holly Watts Memorial Award based on her selection by a vote of the members of the Exotics Animal Club. The award is a tribute to a veterinary student named Holly Watts, who passed away in 1983 during her junior year. Established by her family and members of the Class of 1985, the Holly Watts Memorial Award recognizes a student with exceptional interest and proficiency in non-domestic animal medicine.

Katie Buatois was given special recognition for her service during the past year as president of the Purdue Chapter of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association, known as SAVMA Purdue. Katie was praised for her dedication in fulfilling this important leadership role within the student body.

Dean Reed then concluded the program by sharing his own message for the Class of 2024. “I would like to congratulate you on reaching this pivotal point in your veterinary medical education when you begin your clinical training,” Dean Reed said. “You will be the second veterinary class to complete your fourth year in our new veterinary hospitals. This will be an exciting time for each of you and all of us in the college. The coming year will be a phenomenal learning experience. Immerse yourself in it so you can become the best veterinarian you can be – and have fun!”

Dean Reed also acknowledged the importance of the support of loving family members. “On behalf of our college’s faculty and staff, we say thank you to each of our graduates’ family members who have joined us today.” Attendees then were invited to stay for a reception that provided an opportunity for students and their families to visit with one another and college faculty and staff, while also capturing some more photos of the occasion.

Professional photos from this event are available to view and purchase online at: lauschphotography.com (Gallery: 2023 Purdue Vet Med; Password: 2023PVM).

Congratulations Class of 2024!

Writer(s): Kevin Doerr | pvmnews@purdue.edu

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