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Second Class of Physician Assistant Students Receive White Coats

Physician assistant student Brittany Wilkerson poses for a photo after receiving her white coat from Nadja Button, M.H.S., (right) assistant professor in the PA program, and Patricia Kelly, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies.

Physician assistant student Brittany Wilkerson poses for a photo after receiving her white coat from Nadja Button, M.H.S., (right) assistant professor in the PA program, and Patricia Kelly, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies.

Keynote speaker UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., slips on his own white coat while talking about the symbolism and importance of the white coat in health care.

Keynote speaker UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., slips on his own white coat while talking about the symbolism and importance of the white coat in health care.

June 26, 2014 | The 30 students in the second class of the physician assistant program in the UAMS College of Health Professions donned white coats for the first time during a June 2 ceremony.

UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., Dean Douglas Murphy, Ph.D., and Patricia Kelly, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies each talked about the symbolism of the white coat in health care. For more than 100 years, physicians and health care professionals wore distinctive white coats to represent science, professionalism and cleanliness for patients.

“However, wearing a white coat is not intended to separate you in any symbolic way from your patient,” said Rahn, delivering keynote remarks after removing his suit coat and putting on his own white coat, then noting that you are often treated differently when wearing the white coat. “The white coat is a powerful symbol in health care but I see it as more a symbol aimed at the one who wears the coat of the responsibility they have to their patients and to their profession.”

Added Kelly: “Our first class of students embedded a tremendous legacy of excellence for future classes. You 30 students are now accountable to future patients. This is a responsibility you have been chosen for and one in which we are confident you will succeed.”

Murphy pointed to the increased demand for medical care with an aging population and more patients with health insurance thanks to health care reform. “I believe physician assistants will play a key role in providing greater access to the health care system. Your education also makes you well prepared to be leaders in this time of change in health care.”

Rahn also noted these “disruptive changes” occurring in health care and “this is change that is not going to lessen.”

“What doesn’t change is what we do as care providers — that is to act beneficial toward those in our care, to maintain professional excellence with compassion, integrity and honor,” he said.

Rahn joked to the new students that the previous class of physician assistant students, the program’s first, was “the best class in the history of the program, so the bar has been set high for you.”

Following the chancellor’s remarks, the students were presented a brand new white coat that they will wear during their clinical experiences in the program. The group then recited the Physician Assistant Professional Oath, which highlights their responsibility for professionalism, teamwork and providing the best possible care to patients.

The students in the physician assistant Class of 2016:

Brittany AyersChelsea HancockSharonda Smarjesse
Brooklyn Park, Minn.Van BurenWhite Hall
Carolyn BlackLance HarrisAaron Smith
Lake VillageCape Girardeau, Mo.Hope
Shelby ChamnessAlexandra HuettKelleigh Sprott
GreenwoodFayettevilleSpringdale
Blake DavisJoshua KerrKeli Thomason
Van Wert, OhioNorth Little RockArkadelphia
Neysa EllisTeryn LaseterKristen Wagner
Hot SpringsRussellvilleOak Harbor, Ohio
Kyndle FaulknerLachan LaytonTaylor Wesley
Winston-Salem, N.C.Little RockAlma, Mo.
Kellie FlahertyRachael MainaFarryl Wilburn
TexarkanaSearcyHope
Bailey GomerAshley MartindaleBrittany Wilkerson
Grand Meadow, Wisc.BentonLittle Rock
Daniel GreenEbony MontgomeryBrock Wrinkles
MaumelleFayettevilleJonesboro
Grayson HalladayLacey NoblesHannah Yrastorza
FayettevilleSheridanLakeland, Fla.

The UAMS physician assistant program, established in 2011, is a 28-month master’s degree program. Physician Assistants are licensed medical providers who work with the supervision of a physician. They take patient medical histories, conduct physical exams, order diagnostic tests, diagnose medical conditions, write prescriptions and manage acute illness and chronic disease with the supervision of a physician. The UAMS program is the first at a public university in Arkansas.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physician assistants is projected to grow 38 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Increased demand for health care services from the growing and aging population and widespread chronic disease, combined with a shortage of physicians, will result in increased demand for health care providers, such as physician assistants.

The 30 new physician assistant students recite the Physician Assistant Oath as part of the white coat ceremony beginning their journey in the program.

The 30 new physician assistant students recite the Physician Assistant Oath as part of the white coat ceremony beginning their journey in the program.