White Coats Symbolize Entry to Profession for Pharmacy Freshmen

By Amy Widner

“My feelings toward my first white coat were a little conflicted, a bit of a love-hate relationship, which, when I look back on it, I think that’s probably pretty normal for the journey to becoming a pharmacist. As a new student, I loved the high ideals and respect that the coat symbolized, but it intimidated me.”

Stowe gave this advice as the keynote speaker at the White Coat Ceremony for the UAMS College of Pharmacy Class of 2023, held Aug. 23 at Pulaski Academy Connor Performing Arts Center. During the annual tradition, freshman pharmacy students put on their white coats for the first time in a ceremony before family and friends, symbolizing their entry into the pharmacy career and a commitment to professionalism.

Dr. Cindy Stowe at the microphone

Dean Cindy Stowe, Pharm.D., tells the Class of 2023 about her pharmacy school experience and how, by the end, she grew more confident and comfortable with the high expectations of the profession.Sam Giannavola

Stowe said her white coat felt stiff and awkward at first. Over time, as she learned more skills and settled into her education, the coat became more functional. As a student pharmacist, her main concern was how much information she could carry with her in the pockets of her white coat. Eventually, her confidence grew and her identity as a pharmacist solidified in her mind and the coat got lighter over the years.

Students giving oath

After donning their white coats one by one, the students read the Student Pledge of Professionalism together.Sam Giannavola

“My journey as a pharmacist has been filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, setbacks and successes,” Stowe said. “That first white coat witnessed many major events in my career as a student pharmacist, and it did begin to fit better over time. So you might think as I did, the white coat is a bit more than you can handle straight out of the gate, but I want to assure you that I am confident that you’re ready. You met all the challenges thus far. You’re prepared for your pharmacy-focused education.”

Dr. John Vinson at the mic

John Vinson, Pharm.D., CEO of the Arkansas Pharmacists Association, welcomes the students to the journey ahead.Sam Giannavola

After Stowe spoke, each of the 75 students took their turn on the stage. Helped by upperclassmen to put on their white coat, each student then crossed the stage to sign the student pledge of professionalism, marking the beginning of their four years of study. Faculty, leadership and profession representatives were nearby to welcome them to the field.

Student with white coat on

Upperclassmen helped each student put on their white coat on stage.Sam Giannavola

The ceremony is sponsored by the Arkansas Pharmacists Association. Its CEO, John Vinson, Pharm.D., represented the association at this year’s ceremony.

“Our society has trust in you, and that white coat will symbolize that as you interact with patients throughout your college experience and into the future,” Vinson said. “Don’t take that for granted. Always put the patient first.”


COP faculty on stage

College of Pharmacy faculty participated in the ceremony from on stage.Sam Giannavola

Lanita White, Pharm.D., assistant dean for student affairs and an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice, welcomed the students and their family and friends to the ceremony.

Gabriella Nepomuceno, president of the UAMS Academy of Student Pharmacists, emceed the event and led the students in the pledge of professionalism.

It reads, in part:

“The profession of pharmacy is one that demands adherence to a set of rigorous ethical standards. … These high ideals are necessary to ensure the quality of care extended to the patients I serve. As a student of pharmacy, I understand that my professional responsibility begins today with my entrance into this professional college community.”