Third Annual White Coat Ceremony Welcomes UNC Physician Assistant Studies Program Students

In the third year of UNC’s Physician Assistant Program, more than 800 students applied for 20 open slots.

Third Annual White Coat Ceremony Welcomes UNC Physician Assistant Studies Program Students click to enlarge The UNC Physician Assistant Studies Program welcomed its third class in January 2018.

The UNC Physician Assistant Studies Program, part of the Department of Allied Health Sciences, recently accepted its third class of students, who arrived in January 2018 to being coursework. On Thursday, January 25, students received their white coats, as part of an annual white coat ceremony hosted by the program on the health sciences campus.

Mary Beth McGranaghan, PhD, PA-C, said the class of 2019 reflects the program’s mission and goals.  “They come to us from various professions, including nursing, special forces medics, and ophthamology,” she said. “They bring to us a wealth.”

Half of the twenty incoming students are alumni of the University of North Carolina System schools. The cohort boasts more than 5,700 patient care hours and has an average student body age of 28.

Meg Beal, PA-C and faculty member, shared with the incoming class the significance of the white coat ceremony, which dates back more than 100 years. Students also received a PA program challenge coin, a tradition rooted in military history, which emphasizes teamwork and identity. 

Paul Chelminski, MD, MPH, FACP and program director asked the incoming class to reflect on the role of a shortstop during their career both as a PA student and professional.

“Consider the shortstop—and imagine an alternative standard of professionalism,” Chelminski said.

“The shortstop most closely approximates the ideals of medical professionalism. He or she does not dominate, does not set the agenda. The shortstop reacts—almost flawlessly—to scenarios that are routinely more variable, uncertain, and unexpected than the more linear scenarios presented to pitchers, hitters, and scorers,” Chelminski said.

The program is designed to provide educational and career-development opportunities for nontraditional students, including veterans with medical experience, and to reduce North Carolina's health care workforce shortage in underserved areas.

“We are here to protect and defend our patients and their families,” Chelminski said. “We must be dependable.” 

The class of 2019 has five military-affiliated students, which represents 25 percent of the incoming class.   

The program is made possible because of the unprecedented public-private partnerships that have been formed and the generous donations from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, and the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation, and the leadership and support of Dr. Mary Susan Fulghum and her late husband Dr. James Fulghum.


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