August 4, 2022 : By Chris Breedlove - LUCOM Marketing
On Saturday, July 30, Liberty University’s Center for Music and the Worship Arts, Concert Hall was filled with family, friends, and special guests of new Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) students. Recognizing LUCOM’s Class of 2026, the ninth class of LUCOM, the annual White Coat Ceremony was held with over 160 new students who were presented with the symbolic white coat. The event came after a week-long orientation for the new students and signified the first rite of passage into medical education.
Randy G. Litman, DO, associate dean for clinical affairs and GME, offered welcome remarks to those in attendance and watching the online broadcast.
“When the Class of 2026 dons their white coats today, they accept the importance of humanism in healthcare and embark on a personal and professional journey,” Litman said. “When the Class of 2026 takes the Oath today, they acknowledge the many responsibilities that accompany their chosen life’s work. On behalf of the Dean, Dr. Joseph Johnson, and the faculty of Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine, I welcome you to Lynchburg, Virginia, and the Osteopathic Medical Profession.”
In keeping with tradition, a prayer of thankfulness and protection was then offered over the new student doctors by Donald R. Raleigh, EdD, senior associate dean for academic operations.
“We thank You for each of the student-doctors that are here with us today and ask Your blessings upon them,” Raleigh said. “Help them to be used to Your will, grant them wisdom to provide knowledge, compassion, and guidance as Champions for Christ and that You would be blessed through it all. I ask for Your continued protection and blessings on LUCOM and Liberty University. Guide us that Your will be done.”
LUCOM Dean Joseph R. Johnson, DO, FACOOG (Dist), then addressed the students giving thanks to their families before highlighting the ceremony’s significance.
“This White Coat Ceremony — our annual tradition — not only recognizes a new class of osteopathic medical students, but also offers reflection on those who have supported and sacrificed their loved ones for this new chapter,” Johnson said. “Class of 2026, you did not make it here alone. Your mom and dad — your family — were the first ‘physicians’ in your lives. It was a collective effort to get you here and will continue to be a collective effort to see you through.”
“Students, you have no idea what you got yourself into,” Johnson added. “You have been pushing that boulder up the hill working on that undergraduate or master’s degree. You were at the top of the mountain, and today you are ready to take on a monumental task of pushing that boulder back up. 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.’”
“Class of 2026, Liberty’s newest class of student-doctors, this White Coat Ceremony is just the beginning of a journey, an adventure, a challenge, and a life-changing endeavor from which you will emerge at the other side forever changed. In the coming months, we promise to challenge, motivate, coach, prod, teach, encourage, pour into, and love — yes, love — all of you,” Johnson continued. “For a moment, think of the word “physician,” as Christ is our Great Physician and ultimate example. The word itself evokes ideas of healing. And we take this very seriously in Osteopathic Medicine.”
Using a quote from the founder of Osteopathy, Andrew Taylor Still, DO, MD, spoken in 1910 — Johnson also said, “Is God an Architect? If so, why not be governed by the plan, specification, building, and engineering of that Architect in our work as healers? When we conform to and work by the laws and specifications of this Architect, we get the results required. This is the foundation stone on which Osteopathy stands.”
“Here at Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine, we are distinctively Christian,” Johnson added. “We will challenge you in medicine, but we will also challenge you in your walk with Christ. You will understand the design of the human body and creation and will meet the creator in your daily walks and learnings. Liberty University’s 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.”
“Before too long, this white coat will feel familiar — like a part of you — as you grow in confidence and experience…and you will know you were born for this…and you will know that you are here for “such a time as this,” Johnson concluded.
Following Dr. Johnson’s remarks, each new osteopathic medical student walked across the stage, where a LUCOM faculty member assisted in donning their new white coat. The students then received four lapel pins: the academic seal of Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine, the monogram of Liberty University, 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 once again privileged to welcome Kristen Newton, executive assistant director of VOMA, to distribute the fourth pin.
Continuing the new tradition of inviting practicing and retired medical professionals that carry a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) or Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, 11 students walked across the stage alongside an immediate member of their family who coated them as a symbolic moment in their family’s history.
LUCOM Associate Professor of Family Medicine Raena M. Pettitt, DO, CHSE, led the Osteopathic Oath, with each newly coated student-doctor standing together and speaking in unison to publicly state their acknowledgment and responsibility within medicine.
LUCOM’s Class of 2026 consists of 162 students — 157 representing 28 states, as well as five international students. The top five states are Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New Jersey. Fifteen students graduated from Liberty University before starting their osteopathic medical education.
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.