White Coat Ceremony reminds first-year students of their powers and responsibilities

    Class of 2021 implored to seek new opportunities outside of their comfort zone

    By Brett Lambert on October 3, 2017

    With great prescribing power comes great responsibility.

    Drawing parallels to the superheroes that don the pages of comic books and movie theatres, Dr. Neal Davies (B.Sc. Pharm ’91, PhD ’96), dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences reminded the future Class of 2021 about the awesome powers at their disposal as they took part in the White Coat Ceremony on September 21, 2017.

    “Superheroes have extraordinary talents, a strong moral code, protect the public, a distinctive costume, and a base of operations,” explained Davies. “What about pharmacists? Pharmacists adhere to a strict moral code, take a pledge of professionalism, and protect the public. Pharmacists wear costumes, the white coat. We don’t have bat caves, but we do have pharmacies, laboratories, apothecaries, drug stores, hospitals, and dispensaries.”

    “We also have extraordinary abilities,” Davies continued. “We have almost encyclopedic knowledge of drugs and drug interactions. We have unwavering compassion, and let’s not forget our greatest ability of all: the ability to decipher terrible handwriting [from a medical doctor].”

    One hundred and thirty-four students from the Faculty took part in the White Coat Ceremony at the Shaw Conference Centre along with friends and family in attendance to wish them well. This marked the first time the ceremony took place in September and at the Shaw, a change from previous years of the event being held in January and at the Myer Horowitz Theatre.

    Donning the white coat is a symbol of the pharmacy student joining the profession, which is celebrated in pharmacy schools across Canada and is also a tradition commonly observed in other health sciences disciplines.

    Keynote speaker, Dr. Don Perrier (B.Sc. Pharm ’67, M.Sc. ’70), implored the Class of 2021 to keep an open mind on the many different paths and opportunities available in pharmacy, even if they may not be certain which direction to take.

    “Most of what happened in my career, I never could have predicted. It certainly wasn’t planned,” says Perrier. “Reflecting back on my life in pharmacy, it was a relatively brief experience or a simple question that had a strong impact on the path I took. In my final year, I was looking forward to entering a hospital pharmacy residence program when the life changing question came. A faculty member said six words: ‘have you ever considered graduate school?’ Always keep an open mind when asked what may be simple questions. I encourage you to seriously consider them before dismissing it as you never know what may come your way and where it will take you.”

    In addition to the draping of the white coat, students took the Pledge of Professionalism and the Code of Ethics administered by Sean Hanson, president-elect of the Alberta Pharmacy Students’ Association and Greg Eberhart (B.Sc. Pharm ’79), registrar of the Alberta College of Pharmacists, respectively.

    “Throughout your journey to becoming a pharmacist, it’s important to remember who we all do this for: our patients,” says Hanson before administering the pledge. “Whether you’re working in community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, a Primary Care Network, whether you’re involved in your own pharmacy chain, or help guide the policies that govern our profession, remember that the most important thing we do every day is to improve the care of our patients.”

    This grounding of the profession in ethics and integrity resonated with the participants from the Class of 2021.

    “What stood out for me were the themes of moral principles being integral to the pharmacy profession,” says Kurt Weckesser, one of the students who took part in the ceremony. “The profession is guided by this moral code and that’s the sort of thing I wanted to hear as a future health care professional.”

    “Taking in the whole ceremony, I felt an adrenaline rush,” says Nada Abu Omer, another member of the Class of 2021. “It felt like we are now on the path to becoming who you want to be!”

    You can view a complete set of photos from the White Coat Ceremony on Flickr here and here.