Second-year learners take part in White Coat Ceremony tradition

Second-year White Coat Ceremony at Northrop steps

 The School of Dentistry’s second-year learners experienced a rite of passage into the profession last week, after a pandemic-induced delay.

The DDS Class of 2024, Dental Therapy class of 2023 and Dental Hygiene class of 2022 celebrated their White Coat Ceremony on Friday, September 24. Typically celebrated at the beginning of a cohort’s education, this ceremony was postponed last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The School chose to hold the ceremony at a later date in order to recognize students in person and maintain the ritual and symbolism of the ceremony.

First celebrated in 1989 at the University of Chicago, the White Coat Ceremony marks the moment in which each clinical learner is bestowed with their first white coat, recognizing the professionalism and patient-centered care expected of the wearer.

During the ceremony, Cyndee Stull, RDH, MDH, DHSc, Director of the Division of Dental Hygiene, bestowed white coats to dental hygiene learners. Karl Self, DDS, MBA, Director of the Division of Dental Therapy, honored Dental Therapy students, while Paul Olin, DDS, MS, Interim Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs, honored DDS learners. Each class presented their Code of Ethics, written during their orientation last year, and had the opportunity to sign their affirmation of that document after receiving their coats.

Each class’s code reflected particularly on the role of healthcare providers in a time of crisis, cementing each learner’s understanding of the grave responsibility they would undertake as oral health care providers.

Second year student receives her White Coat from Dr. Karl Self and Dean Keith Mays looks on.

“It is during these trying and uncertain times that we vow to remain steadfast of these pledges throughout our education,” student Sara Henry read from the DDS class of 2024’s code, “beginning during the COVID-19 pandemic and reaching far beyond our reinstatement as Doctors of Dental Surgery."

Dean Keith Mays, DDS, MS, PhD, reflected on his pride for this class and their resilience, having entered dental school in the heart of the pandemic. “You entered the profession during the pandemic,” he said. “Things changed tremendously, and you were resilient. You marched in, you adapted, and you continue to move through in a different environment than most of us can imagine. I want to acknowledge that, and all the things you will accomplish in our great profession.”

In a keynote address to the class, Rachel Uppgaard, DDS, clinical associate professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery, reminded learners of the need to continually work, learn and grow as oral health professionals. “That’s why they call it practicing dentistry,” she said.

Reflecting on what she already knew of this class’s loved ones and passions, Uppgaard encouraged each attendee to visualize a picture they have on their phones of a loved one, and what that person means to them.

“On difficult days, I want you to remember that the people you treat are someone else’s ‘picture people,’” she said. “Make the patient the center of your work, and the rest will fall into place.”

Second year students receives a hug following the White Coat Ceremony

“This education is the greatest gift you will receive,” she continued. “Take advantage of it, and give back to your community.”

We congratulate and celebrate this resilient and committed group of learners for all they have done thus far, and wish them all the best as they move forward in their oral health care journey, at the School of Dentistry and beyond.

Select White Coat Ceremony photos can be found here. Students and families can access all photos from the White Coat Ceremony via our Google Drive folder.

Video of the ceremony, programs and other information can be found on our 2021 White Coat Ceremony page.