A traditional rite of passage for dentistry students

(Edmonton) For dental students at the University of Alberta, wearing a white coat means they’ve entered a point in their education where they will start the clinical part of their training and become an integral part of patient-care delivery. On May 4, the 10th annual white coat ceremony was held for the second-year dental students.

The purpose of the ceremony, where students receive their white coats, which is meant to symbolize the transition from student to practitioner-in-training, is to emphasize the significance of a trusting relationship between dentist and patient and to celebrate their commitment to the goals of professionalism, ethical practice, scientific and technical expertise, and compassionate service to others.

“The habits the students form now in terms of how they treat patients will a long-term impact on the care they deliver to patients as future practitioners and on the reputation of the profession,” says Steve Patterson, a professor in the Department of Dentistry. Patterson teaches a number of ethics courses within the department and says that the earlier professionalism and the importance of those responsibilities can be instilled, the better.

Kieth Manning, president of Alberta Dental Association & College, said to the students at the ceremony, “You are the next generation of dentists and your professionalism, leadership and attitude will bring you a satisfying and successful career. Remember the efforts and sacrifices of our forefathers and the importance of placing the interests of the public in an ethical fashion above your personal interests.

“Look after your profession and the profession will look after you.”

Second-year student David Leoni responded to Manning’s words as part of the formal program and said, “The white coat symbolizes dedication, respect, patient-centredness, honesty, professionalism and compassion. These virtues will travel far beyond the confines of any dental office, and will be felt by our patients, our families and our community.”

“The receiving of our white coats truly symbolizes the immense responsibilities that come with our fast-approaching clinical education and ultimately, patient care,” said second-year student Dena Sawchuk. “We must never forget that the newly placed weight on our shoulders is not a burden, but rather an honour—an honour to be a part of a profession selflessly dedicated to the lives and well-being of others.”

“As clinicians-in-training, students are faced with countless new challenges to overcome and skills to acquire; and, by receiving the white coat, they accept accountability for their actions and agree to provide the best patient care possible,” said Tom Stevenson, vice-chair of student and clinical affairs as MC at the event. “At the school, we take pride in our student’s achievements so for us, this ceremony is very special.”