August 24, 2021 : By Chris Breedlove - LUCOM Marketing
On Saturday, Aug. 21, in a nearly full concert hall inside Liberty University’s Center for Music and the Worship Arts, Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) recognized its eighth class of osteopathic medicine students, the Class of 2025, during its annual White Coat Ceremony. Unlike last year due to COVID-19 concerns, this year’s ceremony welcomed families and guests of the students to help amplify the celebration. A live stream of the event was produced through Liberty University Broadcasting and is available to watch on LUCOM’s Facebook Page.
The ceremony started with a surprise visit from Scott Hicks, PhD, provost and chief academic officer for Liberty University. “This is an exciting day, an exciting time for you this morning,” he said. “There are people in this auditorium who will be investing in you in a personal way. The faculty here love you; they care for you, and they’re going to push you and pull you, all to help you be hugely successful in your medical career. Liberty University is here because of you — the students. It’s here because of the impact that our faculty make every day as they serve you. Our people have a heart for God.”
Dr. Hicks also said, “Students, as you train to be doctors, remember who you will be serving every day. It’s going to be tough. And today, I want to remind you of that service to others. To me, that’s what the white coat means — a symbol of service to people. Serving those that are hurting mentally, physically, and with illnesses in their families. You will be there to act as God’s hands and feet to meet their needs.”
Dr. Hicks shared with the new students wisdom that he received from Liberty’s founder, the late Jerry Falwell Sr., whom he had a chance to meet as a Liberty student himself. “Here are a few important things to remember this morning. Give of yourself; it’s your job to be a difference maker as an osteopathic physician. A measure of a man is not his accomplishments; it’s what makes him stand after falling. Hope is never lost; when you want to give up, remember hope continues. God is never done with you; you are uniquely His and quitting is not an option. Always be in prayer; nothing of eternal significance is done apart from prayer. And finally, love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; Luke 10:27.”
“Students, be encouraged that you are the next generation of doctors,” Dr. Hicks concluded.
Following Dr. Hicks, LUCOM Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs Chad K. Brands, MD, CPE, SFHM, offered a few remarks to the new student doctors. “This [ceremony] is a major transition for you as students. You will be pursuing the high calling of wearing that white coat representing the healing arts in medicine, medical science, and the health professions the rest of your days on Earth. Think of where you’ve come from and where you will be going. As you put on that white coat, you will be taking on major responsibilities. You will be privileged to take care of your patients … their body, mind, and spirit. This is a sacred, solemn moment, but a celebratory moment. This will be a challenging but rewarding journey.”
A prayer of thankfulness and protection was then offered over the new student doctors by new LUCOM faculty member Donald R. Raleigh, EdD, senior associate dean for academic affairs. “Lord may this ceremony serve as a reminder to each of the students the responsibility in which they are entrusted and the Great Commission that You have set before us all. We thank You for each of the student doctors that are here with us today. We ask You for a hedge of protection upon their lives and ask that You bless them, empower them, and guide their steps forward as they follow Your plan for their lives.”
LUCOM Dean Joseph Johnson, DO, then addressed the student doctors along with their families together for the first time since appointed dean this past July. “Students, you have chosen a path of remarkable science and humbling servitude. You will be able to assist in God’s incredible gift of life, birthing and caring for babies, care for families in crisis, performing surgeries and care for the mind, body, and spirit of patients. We believe that the body is designed by God to heal and seek health, and we engage in these efforts of healing and restoring the physical body of a patient to full function and health, while attending the mind and spirit of that one who is in need,” he added.
“Without a doubt, there will be heartaches and tears, and even many questions in the days ahead. But you will also ‘count it all joy’ as Scripture states in completing each course of study and advancing in your understanding and knowledge of the inner workings of the human body, and the role you have as a physician in restoring wellness to those who will come to you for healing. And before too long, this white coat will feel familiar — like a part of you — as you grow in confidence and experience. You will know you were born for this, and you will know that you are here for such a time as this.”
Dr. Johnson also added, “In bestowing the white coat — a symbol of professionalism, compassion, and honor — our deans and faculty are setting a standard for you to uphold on your journey to becoming an osteopathic physician. The White Coat Ceremony is a symbolic milestone for any class entering medical school and marks the beginning of a student’s transition into the medical profession. At Liberty University, our motto is ‘Training Champions for Christ.’ In the same way, we seek to ‘Train Physicians for Christ.’ We follow Jesus Christ as our model for He is the Great Physician — He who is a Healer of people physically, and a Healer of souls even to the moment and forever and eternity. Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us, ‘Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you.’”
“Welcome to medical school — and congratulations! You have dreamed, worked, sacrificed, and waited for this moment for many long years. You have left blood, sweat, and tears along the tracks of your life to enter this marathon called medical school. This is the first checkpoint in your journey. You’ve made it, you are here and part of the Class of 2025,” Dr. Johnson concluded.
During the ceremony, each student doctor walked across the stage where a LUCOM faculty member assisted in the donning of their new white coat. The students then received three lapel pins: the academic seal of Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine, a token provided by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, and a pin from the Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association (VOMA), as a small gift to welcome each student-doctor into VOMA. LUCOM was privileged to welcome Kristen Newton, executive assistant director of VOMA, to distribute the third pin.
Near the conclusion of the coating section of the program, and as a first for LUCOM, 19 students walked across the stage alongside an immediate member of their family who coated them as a symbolic moment in their family’s history. “It’s great to see the legacy of medicine pass from generation to generation in moments like this today,” added Dr. Johnson.
To conclude the ceremony, Raena M. Pettitt, DO, CHSE, associate professor of family medicine, led the Osteopathic Oath with each newly coated student doctor standing together and speaking in unison to confirm their acknowledgement and responsibility within medicine.
LUCOM’s Class of 2025 consists of 162 students — 155 representing 30 states, and seven international students from five foreign countries. The top six states are Virginia, California, Florida, Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania. Additionally, 135 students are entering Liberty’s DO program with a bachelor’s degree and 27 with a master’s degree. LUCOM’s Class of 2025 has 30 students from Liberty University. Additional top academic institutions represented are Baylor University, University of Florida, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Instituted by The Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993, a White Coat Ceremony is celebrated at almost all medical schools in the United States, as well as in 19 other countries. As an international nonprofit organization, the foundation works with physicians in training and in practice, as well as other members of the healthcare community, to instill a culture of respect, dignity, and compassion for patients and practitioners.
View more images from LUCOM’s White Coat Ceremony on Facebook.