Physician Assistant Program celebrates graduates with White Coat Ceremony

RUC Physician Assistant students get ready for the White Coat Ceremony on December 12.
RUC Physician Assistant students (left to right) Heidi Rossow, Michael Gumpert, Kevin Duffy and Emily Todd.

On December 12, 2019, over 200 individuals gathered in the Grand Dogwood Ballroom at the Vinton War Memorial in Vinton, Virginia to celebrate the 2019 Radford University Carilion (RUC) Physician Assistant (PA) White Coat Ceremony. The annual ceremony recognizes the culmination of the graduating PA students’ studies with the presentation of a white clinical lab coat that symbolizes their transition from students to healthcare professionals. Forty-two PA students received their white coats at the celebratory event.

“We are extremely proud of all of of our students and their academic achievements, their compassion toward others and their dedication to the advancement of this profession,” said Sara Nicely, D.H.Ed. associate professor , PA program director and PA department chair.  “These students were positive through stressful times, impressive in their academic endeavors and have to be some of the hardest working, motivated and focused people I have ever had the privilege to teach.”

After the introduction from Nicely, the ceremony began with a warm welcome from Teresa Ann Conner, PT, Ph.D., MBA, Radford University’s associate provost for health sciences.

PA students prepare to read the Physician Assistant oath after receiving their white coats.

PA students prepare to read the Physician Assistant oath after receiving their white coats.

Following Conner at the podium was 2019 Class President Heidi Rossow, who remarked, “You have been given the chance to change thousands of lives over the rest of your career. Never let the difficult days, that are sure to come, outweigh just how remarkable that opportunity is.”

Rossow, who was named the 2019 PA Student of the Year by the American Academy of Physician Assistants in April, said she has found the graduating class of PAs to be curious, honest, transparent, compassionate and community-driven, which will make them all excellent healthcare providers.

During the ceremony, several awards were presented to external individuals and organizations that demonstrated exceptional support to the Class of 2019. Those included the Partnership Award, presented to the Salem Veteran Affairs Medical Center; the Outstanding New Clerkship Director Award, presented to Jessica Gillespie, PA-C; the Outstanding Clerkship Director Award, presented to Christopher Cline, M.D.; Alumnus of the Year Award, presented to Grayson Tolmie ’14, PA-C; and the Preceptors of the Year Awards to Brandi Tomlin, NP, Mathew Bowles, PA-C and Vydia Permashwar, M.D.

Two student awards followed, including the presentation of the Anne T. Dale Award for Student Excellence to Kevin Duffy and the Clinical Excellence Award to Karlie DiRuzza.

A PA student receives his white coat.
A PA student receives his white coat.

Nicely returned to the stage to speak about the Pi Alpha National PA Honor Society. Established in 2004 by the Association of Physician Assistant Programs, the honor society recognizes students for significant academic achievement, leadership, research, community and professional service. It also emphasizes high standards of character and conduct among PA students and graduates. Four PA students were inducted into the society, including Heidi Rossow, Kevin Duffy, Emily Todd and Michael Gumpert.

Assistant Professor J. Randy Howell, D.H.Sc., PA-C spoke about the significance of the white coat, after which each student crossed the stage and accepted their coats. Associate Professor Robert Hadley, Ph.D., PA-C then led the students as they recited the PA professional oath.    

The PA students officially graduated the next day, on December 13, 2019, during RUC’s inaugural Winter Commencement ceremony in Roanoke.

Dec 20, 2019
Mark Lambert