White Coat Ceremony Inspires Record Number of New UM Pharmacy Students

Speakers encourage them to uphold the trust and respect of their chosen profession

Grace Pickle receives her white coat from Dean David D. Allen and pharmacy student body president-elect Christine Hayden.

OXFORD, Miss. – A record 120 students are enrolled this fall in the first professional year, known as PY1, of the University of Mississippi’s professional pharmacy program; 115 of them received white coats during a recent ceremony at the university’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for Performing Arts.

The School of Pharmacy ceremony, a decade-old tradition, marked completion of the new students’ pre-pharmacy curriculum and their entry into the school’s professional program.

“The white coat is the universal symbol of those who work in the health-related professions,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “Our annual white coat ceremony is a way of formally recognizing and fostering students’ commitment to professionalism.”

The number of PY1 students, 120, enrolled this fall is up by six students over last fall and by 41 students over fall 2011. As a group, entering PY1 students also have a higher average GPA and PCAT score than those entering last fall.

“This entire group of students is exceptionally talented and intellectually accomplished,” Allen said. “It is an honor for me and our faculty to work with them.”

When added to the number of students returning for their second, third and fourth years of the professional program, the 120 PY1 students push the pharmacy program’s and the school’s total enrollment to an all-time high. Neither UM nor pharmacy school administrators are surprised by the rise in numbers.

“At the University of Mississippi, we are extremely proud of our School Pharmacy,” said Provost Morris Stocks, while delivering the ceremony’s keynote address. “The school is not only recognized as a truly outstanding program within the confines of our university, it is also recognized nationally for its achievements and for the high quality of professional education it provides to our students.”

During his address, Stocks told students that they are “privileged to be a part of an academic institution where change, initiative, leadership and passion for service are encouraged.”

Nearly 100 percent of UM’s Doctor of Pharmacy graduates pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination on their first attempt, and the school has been repeatedly recognized for the amount of external funding it secures for research, education and service projects.

“This is a great accomplishment for the school’s faculty and students, and it’s a testament to the format and content of its curriculum and admissions procedures,” said David F. Gregory, the school’s new associate dean for academic affairs.

The school’s faculty conducts internationally competitive research, which affects the health and lives of people in Mississippi and beyond, and enables them to share emerging scholarship with students, Gregory said. Plus, the school’s life-changing work in Delta communities has won numerous national awards, including one for “transformative” community service.

As president-elect of the Mississippi Pharmacists Association and president of the pharmacy school’s alumni chapter board of directors, Jillian Foster, Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi‘s director of pharmacy, led the students in taking the Pledge of Professionalism. Leigh Ann Ross, the school’s associate dean for clinical affairs, presented each student with a copy of the pledge – which each signed during the ceremony – and a copy of the book “The Good Pharmacist.”

Students donned their white coats with the help of Allen and Christine Hayden of Birmingham, Ala, president-elect of the pharmacy student body. Before the students received their white coats, pledges and books, Hayden told them that although they come from different places, backgrounds, faiths and culture, they united in their decision to embark on pursing one of the most trusted and respected professions.

“While we are all different, while we are all unique, the symbol of our profession and our unity is this white coat,” Hayden said. “Wear it with humility, wear with honor, stay true to our profession and stay true to our oath.”

Stocks asked the students to make a personal pledge to use their knowledge and strength, caring and compassion, and courage and conviction “to do all that you can to be worthy of the sacred trust that your patients and our society place in you.”

Allen reminded the students to always put their patients first and to make their patients’ health outcomes and quality of life central to every one of their interactions with them.

For a list of the students (and their hometowns) who received their white coats, visit http://www.pharmacy.olemiss.edu/studentaffairs/2013_whitecoat_student_names.pdf.

For more information about the UM School of Pharmacy, call 662-915-7265 or visit http://www.pharmacy.olemiss.edu