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May 21, 2013

White Coat Ceremony Ushers OD Students into Clinical Education

For the third year in a row the SUNY College of Optometry conducted a “white coat” ceremony for its incoming third year OD class in recognition of the transition that students traditionally make between their classroom and clinical studies. The event marked both “a point of celebration and also a point of responsibility,” according to SUNY Optometry’s president Dr. David A. Heath.

Dr. Richard Soden, the executive director of the University Eye Center, congratulated the students and welcomed them to this new phase of their education toward becoming optometrists. He was also quick to point out that they were beginning their clinical activities at one of the most distinctive moments in the history of health care in the United States with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. “The health care system will look remarkably different,” Soden told the gathering of 76 students from the Class of 2015 (pictured above), along with many of their family members and friends as well as SUNY faculty, staff and others.

The white coat ceremony is a relatively recent phenomenon at professional health schools and colleges across the United States and around the world. Soden noted that the first white coat ceremony took place at Columbia University’s medical school in 1993 but it is a tradition that his quickly spread across the various health professions. SUNY’s ceremony was sponsored by both Allergan and Essilor, as well as by the Optometric Center of New York and the New York State Optometric Association (NYSOA). The NYSOA’s immediate past president, SUNY alum Dr. Denise Whittam, also addressed the students during the ceremony, telling them that they should be proud of their accomplishments and that the time had come for many of them to recognize the value and importance of advocacy groups like the NYSOA in a “legislated profession” like optometry.   

Dr. David Troilo, SUNY’s vice president and dean of academic affairs, noted that the student’s passage across the threshold into patient care is accompanied by great responsibilities and expectations. While Dr. Richard Madonna, SUNY’s chairman of clinical education, told the students that with these new expectations comes the need to be “proactive and responsible for your own education.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Jeffry Philpott, SUNY’s vice president for academic affairs, reminded the students that during their first two years at the College they had built strong relationships across the SUNY community that will only continue to grow during the remaining years of their education and beyond.

The ceremony, which took place on Friday, May 17 and lasted about an hour, was followed by a reception for the students and attendees in the College’s new Center for Student Life and Learning.