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May 27, 2014

Large Crowd Celebrates Class of 2016 White Coat Ceremony

Well over 200 people gathered in the Schwarz Theater on May 22 to welcome the Class of 2016 into the third year of their professional program. This rite of passage, known as a “white coat ceremony,” has been increasingly celebrated at professional health educational institutions across the nation in recent years. The College began conducting its own white coat ceremony in 2011 and this year saw the largest collection of family, friends and faculty members in attendance to date.


A total of 85 students received pins as part of the hour-long ceremony that included the perspectives of a parent of one of the students—Dr. Sylvia Bernatsky, herself an OD—as well as inspirational words from Mr. Richard Bernstein, a visually impaired lawyer and advocate who has completed 18 marathons and triathlons.    

In his remarks to the gathering, SUNY Optometry president, Dr. David A. Heath, noted that the progression of the Class of 2016 into its third year of the Doctor of Optometry program represents a significant watershed in the students' professional lives that marks a shift of focus away from themselves to a greater concern over the well-being and outcome of their patients.

Meanwhile, the rapid evolution of the health care environment was also imparted on the new clinical interns. Dr. Richard Soden, vice president for clinical affairs at the College, noted that the students will be faced with “the greatest changes in health care reform since the introduction of Medicare” nearly fifty years ago. While Dr. Denise Whittam, the past president of the New York State Optometric Association and the current president of SUNY Optometry’s Alumni Association, told the students that they would soon be entering a profession that has progressed markedly in recently years, a sentiment that was also articulated by Dr. Bernatsky during her remarks.

Dr. Bernatsky urged the students to remember that working with patients is a two-way street. “At times you may need to teach your patients,” she said. “But don’t forget to learn from them as well.” Mr. Bernstein, who was introduced by Jenna Salner, the class president, implored the students to remember the impact that they will have on their patients’ lives and thanked them for their “willingness to make people’s lives better.”

After receiving their pins from Dr. Soden and Dr. David Troilo, vice president and dean for academic affairs at the College, the students recited the optometric oath for students. The gathering then moved to a reception at the College’s Center for Student Life and Learning.

Check out the slideshow below for more images from the event. Individual photos can be viewed and downloaded by clicking here