Physician Assistant Program’s First Class Dons Its White Coats

News Story: September 29, 2017
Physician Assistant White Coat Ceremony

Watch video of the ceremony

Students in the inaugural class of Sacred Heart University’s Physician Assistant (PA) Program marked a significant milestone in their education when they received their white laboratory coats recently.

The White Coat and Pinning Ceremony, which took place in SHU’s Chapel of the Holy Spirit, recognized the students’ transition from classroom to clinical training.

The program’s 26 students, who began their studies at SHU in August 2016, donned their new lab coats with help from PA program faculty. The University’s chaplain, Father Bruce Roby, administered the Blessing of the Hands, after which students heard from program administrators and keynote speaker Sharon Kiely, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer of Stamford Hospital. In addition to students, the audience included University administrators, PA program faculty and staff, and friends and family of the PA students (some of whom came from as far away as California). 

“The white coat is symbolic of our medical profession. It reminds students of their professional duties as described by Hippocrates, to lead their lives and practice their art in uprightness and honor,” explained Teresa Thetford, department chair and founding program director.

“This is a truly significant accomplishment for our students, the PA program, and Sacred Heart University,” Thetford said. “The white coat marks transition from learning in the classroom setting to working with actual patients under supervision of licensed and board-certified physicians and PAs. It identifies the student as a medical professional who declares a commitment to care for patients both humanely and compassionately.”

Thetford went on to say that PA Education is based on the medical school education model. Each PA student now works directly with patients, completing clinical rotations at a variety of hospitals and clinical sites associated with SHU’s program.

The PA program is in Stamford at the Tandet Center, a facility adjacent to Stamford Hospital. The hospital also serves as a clinical rotation site for many of the PA students.

“We had more than 800 candidates apply for these 26 positions,” Thetford said, “and we interviewed 150 before narrowing the field to our first class. Our second class, which just started, has 34 students based on 1,400 applicants, and next year’s class will have 42 students as we continue growing.”

The PA Program has five full-time faculty members, a dozen adjunct professors and four full-time staff. In addition to classrooms and conference facilities, there is a clinical simulation skills laboratory and an anatomy lab that uses the latest educational technology, the Anatomage Table, a fully segmented, 3D human anatomy system.

“We are very proud of our first class and hard at work with our new student arrivals,” Thetford concluded. “The PA program is already highly regarded; new PAs are in demand at medical centers throughout the country. We are confident our students, upon graduating, will each play an important role improving access to health care at clinics, hospitals and health care facilities. This exciting and dynamic new program epitomizes SHU’s commitment to service, professionalism, and compassionate caring.”

PA White Coat Ceremony 8/11/17