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New students learn about professionalism,
receive white coats


The symbolic donning of the short white coat by the 120 members of the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Class of 2014 means more than just learning to take care of patients: the coat transforms the aspiring physicians and surgeons. 

During the 35th annual Convocation Ceremony held Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010, the president of the OU-COM student government recalled receiving his own coat a year ago.

“Everything changed,” said Mark Postel, OMS II, as he addressed an audience of students, their families and friends who filled Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium for the ceremony.

“The significance of that moment was immediately apparent,” Postel said. “I felt different, I looked different, and through the eyes of my family, I realized I was, indeed, a different person. The coat itself wasn’t anything special … What the white coat represents, however, is special. It simply alters perception.”

Wearing the short white coat identifies the student doctors as someone to be respectedand expected to know the answer to impossible questions, Postel said. “As such, it is imperative that we, as student doctors, acknowledge that respect and live a life deserving of it: a life of professionalism.”

Postel reminded the new medical students that being a true professional involves more than just good behavior; it also means embracing the core values of osteopathic medicine. “These values include altruism, compassion, scholarship, service, honor, integrity and respect,” he said.

Postel told the students, “At some point in your career, you will be the first person in this world to touch someone’s hand, and also the last. Such a profession demands those values.

“Remember, embrace and exude these core values during your clinical experiences, and you will be viewed as a professional, as someone who is deserving of this awesome coat and responsibility,” Postel said.

Keith Watson, D.O., F.A.C.O.S., senior associate dean for academic affairs at OU-COM, discussed some of the history behind the use of white coats in medicine, which first began to appear more than 100 years ago.

White is often used to promote the concept of trustworthiness and purity, Watson said. “When medicine became a scientific enterprise in the early 1900s, the ‘whiteness’ or ‘pureness’ of medicine portrayed this concept in the garb of medical personnel,” he explained

“Most of us would agree that the white coat has come to represent the trust people put in us and the responsibility that trust entails,” Watson said. “While learning the scientific method and applying it to medical decision is critical preparation for all physicians, the development of a standard of professionalism, compassion and respect for the public trust is equally important.”

After remarks by members of the platform party, students mounted the stage to be coated by Nicole Wadsworth, D.O. (’97), assistant dean of preclinical education and assistant professor of emergency medicine at OU-COM; Timothy Barreiro, D.O., F.C.C.P. (’97), CORE clinical associate professor of critical care medicine, practicing pulmonology  at the St. Joseph Health Center in Warren, Ohio; and Geraldine Urse, D.O. (’93), assistant professor of family medicine for OU-COM and trustee of the Ohio Osteopathic Association, practicing at Doctors Hospital Family Practice Center in Grove City.

Keynote address and Phillips Award recipients

Keynote Speaker John Kopchick, Ph.D., Goll Ohio Eminent Scholar and OU-COM professor of biomedical sciences, noted the many advancements in medical care during the past few decades, including innovations in surgical procedures, diagnostics, therapeutics and drug treatments. These advancements have led to the discovery of drugs which lower cholesterol, treat HIV and other diseases and are now commonly used to treat millions of people. 

“Medical options are not static, but are rapidly changing and evolving,” Kopchick said. New discoveries such as the sequencing of the human genome and use of stem cells is leading to novel and dynamic strategies such as “personalized medicine,’ in which a patient’s own body determines treatment. 

“You, as young doctors, will see remarkable changes in medicine,” Kopchick said. “I encourage you to embrace these changes that expand the boundaries of medical practice. In this context, your past education doesn’t determine where you can go; it merely determines where you start, and that start is today.”

Also receiving Phillips Medals of Public Service were David Scholl, Ph.D., a graduate of Ohio University and now president and chief executive officer of Diagnostic Hybrids of Athens and senior vice president for operations for Quidel Corporation of San Diego, Calif.; and John Haseley, J.D., former chief of staff for Ohio Gov. Ted. Strickland, Ph.D.


Scholl received the award for helping transform Diagnostic Hybrids, which develops and distributes cellular and molecular diagnostic kits for detecting a wide range of medical conditions, into a market and world leader in the field and for his commitment to job development in Southeastern Ohio.

Haseley, who grew up in Athens, was recognized for his work on behalf of the citizens of Ohio as a staff member and former chief of staff for several state government officials, including Gov. Ted Strickland.

Comments from the platform party, which consisted of several leaders at the university and in the osteopathic medical community, included:

OU-COM Dean John Brose, D.O., F.A.A.F.P.:
“We know that you are all extremely bright and capable students about to take on an awesome responsibility … This class has the highest average science G.P.A., non-science G.P.A., and total G.P.A. of any incoming class … Each and every one of you was selected because you have the potential to be an outstanding osteopathic physician.”

Ohio University President Roderick McDavis, Ph.D.:
“As a student, know that you will have many, many opportunities to share your gifts, and it is our intent to have you fulfill your promise through engaging and transformative experiences. As you begin your journey as a student doctor, I encourage you to stay focused on making the most of this learning experience. On this quest, you have the opportunity to affect and save lives and to make our world a better place.”

Ohio University Executive Vice President and Provost Pamela Benoit, Ph.D.:“I can tell you that the communication that takes place between physician and patient matters as much as the treatment  that follows. The best physicians listen well, ask good questions and sense meaning in gestures and silences.”

Robert S. Juhasz, D.O., F.A.C.O.I., member of the American Osteopathic Association Board of Trustees: “Share what you learn about osteopathic medicine with the students and faculty, here, on the campus of Ohio University. Help educate the future leaders in business, engineering, journalism, and law amongst others, who will shape policy and become your future patients, about what it means to be an osteopathic physician.” 

Schield M. Wikas, D.O., A.O.C.D., president of the Ohio Osteopathic Association:  “When you graduate, the letters “D.O.” will become a permanent part of your signature. You will inherit high standards that set you apart. These standards are professionalism and ethics. As physicians, you will be dealing with real people with real problems. These individuals—your patients—will depend on you to be their advocate, confidante and healer.”

Jeffrey A. Stanley, D.O., F.A.C.O.S. (’82), president of the OU-COM Society of Alumni and Friends:

“You will learn more of the art and science of medicine daily. But a word of advice: you must always remember to listen to your patients. They will become your greatest advocates—or critics—throughout your career”

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Last updated: 01/28/2016