By Kate Hunger
Students in the Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2023 received their white coats and pins in an annual ceremony signifying their entrance into the profession and the responsibility that comes with it.
Although the Frank M. Tejeda Ceremony usually is held during orientation before the first week of classes for incoming students, pandemic protocols delayed the ceremony until July 24. In fact, the delay will be even longer for the 42 students in the Class of 2022, which is scheduled to have its white coat ceremony on Aug. 13, a postponement of more than a year.
During the in-person ceremony for the Class of 2023, the 51 students also recited the PA professional oath and received their pins from the Texas Academy of Physician Assistants (TAPA).
The pinning of students represents the camaraderie of the national organization, said Assistant Professor and Associate Clinical Coordinator Leticia Bland, DHSc, MPAS, PA-C, who helped organize the ceremonies.
Zeke Griffith, president of the Class of 2023, said he views donning white coats as a symbol of the transition students make “out of our previous identifies, responsibilities and expectations into something much larger than any of us alone—and that’s this grand tradition of medicine and the constant process of dissolving our own ego to care for those in need.”
The pandemic sharpened her commitment to the PA profession, said Kaleena Pickett, a student in the program’s Laredo extension campus cohort and vice president of the Class of 2023.
“For me, it really just reinforces why I want to be a PA,” Pickett said. “It reinforces the need for physician assistants because most hospitals are overwhelmed. What we are doing is going to help in the future and bridge that gap of health care that is missing.”
The white coat ceremony is named in honor of the late U.S. Rep. Frank M. Tejeda, whose efforts supported legislation that fostered the collaboration between the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and the Interservice Physician Assistant Program at Fort Sam Houston. That collaboration led to the current Physician Assistant Studies program in the School of Health Professions.