White Coat Ceremony welcomes 134 new clinical learners to the School of Dentistry

Student receives their white coat on stage

The School of Dentistry celebrated 134 new clinical learners at the annual White Coat Ceremony on September 9, 2022.

First celebrated in 1993 in New York, 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.

Karl Self, DDS, MBA, speaks at the White Coat Ceremony

“This afternoon’s ceremony is meant to recognize their entry into our profession, punctuated with their commitment to professionalism and ethical practice,” reflected Karl Self, DDS, MBA, Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs as he kicked off the ceremony. “you will enter a career of providing care for patients, advocating for social justice in health policies, educating future oral health professions, discovering new treatment modalities, forging ground breaking research, improving the overall health of your patients, and positively engaging and impacting the communities where you will reside. This afternoon, I want to congratulate you for all of your hard work and dedication thus far, and welcome you into this great profession.”

Dean Keith Mays, DDS, MS, PhD, reminded attendees of the history of the event and stressed the great responsibility entrusted to the wearer of each white coat.

Dean Keith Mays, DDS, MS, PhD, speaks at the White Coat Ceremony

“When you wear the white coat you are demonstrating that you are someone that cares for those in need, and seeks to make them whole through the application of science, caring and clinical skill,” he said. “The white coat symbolizes an affirmation that your purpose will be professional and ethical and that you can be trusted to honor the tradition of this learned profession by placing the interest of your patients above your own.”

Representatives of the DDS, Dental Therapy and Dental Hygiene classes introduced their newly-written codes of ethics, which each learner would sign on stage after receiving their coat. Learners recited together the oaths of their respective professions, as a sign of their entrance into the new role.

Each white coat, which symbolizes the student’s entrance to the profession, included a card with an inspirational note from a School of Dentistry alumnus.

Shivan Nelson, DDS '11, speaks at the White Coat Ceremony

Following the donning of white coats, School of Dentistry Alumni Society Board President Shivan Nelson, DDS ’11, shared her three pieces of advice with students as they begin their journey. She encouraged them to seek out mentors and opportunities to mentor others, remember the person attached to the mouth of the patient and remember that they cannot pour from an empty cup.

“Your white coat will come off at the end of the day, but  the weight of this responsibility will not,” she said. “Let the oaths you take today serve as guideposts for how you approach your education and your career to follow. Let these white coats signify how far each of you have come in your journey to becoming the next generation of dental healers.”

The White Coat ceremony is supported by Dr. Freeman and Shirley Rosenblum, and the Upper Midwest Section of the American College of Dentists.

Congratulations to the newest clinical learners who make up the DDS Class of 2026, Dental Therapy Class of 2025 and Dental Hygiene Class of 2024.

Click on the photo below to view more images from the event.