It’s the cloak of knowledge. When health care professionals don their

white lab coats, it communicates to patients that the wearer is a person

of skill and command, someone who can help their injury or illness.

Fifty-four new students in the master of physical therapy program at

Western University of Health Sciences (WesternU) will put on their white

coats for the first time during the University’s third annual White Coat

Ceremony on Sunday, January 9. The event will be held at 11 a.m. at the

WesternU Health Professions Center, 309 E. Second Street, Pomona. It marks

the start of the new academic year that begins January 3.

During the program incoming students – before friends, family and faculty –

will slip into their white lab coats and recite the Pledge of Commitment,

a promise to work toward becoming competent and compassionate health care

professionals.

It is rare for a physical therapy program to offer a white coat ceremony

to its students; the event is typically reserved for medical students.

However, WesternU’s philosophy is that health care is a team effort in

which pharmacists, physician assistants, nurses, doctors and physical

therapists all play equally important roles.

“”In physical therapy a white coat represents the wearer as a professional

with a specific expertise which is used to facilitate the rehabilitation

of the patient,”” said Donna Redman-Bentley, PT, PhD, chair of the

department of physical therapy education at WesternU. “”In practice, the

white coats are usually worn by physical therapists in the acute care or

hospital setting.””

Neeka Minor, a second-year physical therapy student at WesternU, remembers

trying on her white coat for the first time in 1997.

“”The ceremony was important to me, it represented the donning of our

future, not only as students at WesternU but also as clinicians,”” Minor

said. “”It’s a great way to start graduate school!””