Record Number of Pharmacy Students Honored, Inspired During Annual White Coat Ceremony

UM School of Pharmacy Dean David D. Allen (left) and student body president-elect Lacey Gilmore (right) help Ellison Brown of Terry don his white coat, marking his transition from pharmacy student to student pharmacist. UM photo by Nathan Latil.

OXFORD, Miss. – A record-breaking 112 pharmacy students received their white coats during an Aug. 9 ceremony at the University of Mississippi’s Ford Center for Performing Arts.

The UM School of Pharmacy ceremony, a decade-old tradition, marked completion of the students’ pre-pharmacy curriculum and their entry into the first year of the school’s professional program, known as PY1.

“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 students (112) receiving white coats last week was up by 33 students over last fall and by 48 students over fall 2010. As a group, the entering PY1 students also had a higher average GPA (3.36) and a higher average PCAT score (408) 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 112 PY1 students push the 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,” Provost Morris Stocks said during 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 the PY1 students that, “according to most metrics,” the school is ranked among the top 5 pharmacy schools in the country, and that they are “privileged to be a part of an academic institution where change, initiative, leadership and passion for service are encouraged.”

One of those metrics includes the nation’s fifth-highest pass rate on the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination. All of UM’s graduating pharmacists passed the NAPLEX on their first attempt two out of the past five years.

“This is a great accomplishment for our faculty and students, and it’s a testament to the format and content of our curriculum and to our admissions procedures,” said Marvin C. Wilson, the school’s associate dean for academic and student affairs.

The school’s faculty conducts internationally competitive research, which impacts the health and lives of residents of Mississippi and beyond, and enables them to share emerging scholarship with students, Wilson said. Plus, the school’s life-changing work in 12 Delta communities won a national award for “transformative” community service, as well as three national awards for leadership commitment, patient-centered care and outstanding performance.

“It is a remarkable achievement to be nationally and internationally recognized for research, education and service,” Allen said. “The school is achieving new heights, and the credit goes to our students, faculty, preceptors, staff, community partners and loyal alumni and friends.

As president-elect of the Mississippi Pharmacists Association and past president of the Mississippi Society for Health-System Pharmacists, Jillian Foster, director of pharmacy at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi, led the students in taking the Pledge of Professionalism. Leigh Ann Ross, the pharmacy 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.”

After students received their white coats, pledges and books, Allen told them that pharmacists “are among the most trusted and respected professionals in America today,” then admonished them to “uphold that trust and respect” throughout their pharmacy careers.


He also told them 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.


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.”


For a list of students (and their hometowns) who received their white coats, visit


For more information about the UM School of Pharmacy, call 662-915-7265 or visit