This week, the class of 2024 gathered for the annual White Coat Transition ceremony, a School of Dental Medicine tradition that honors the milestone of entering the clinical phase of training.
Forty nine second-year students, guided by the student practice leaders, donned fresh new white coats for the second time. The first time was when the students entered dental school 572 days ago, as Dr. Steven Lepowsky, dean of the School of Dental Medicine, noted in his remarks.
“It’s important for us to hold the ceremony at the beginning of your time with us, because it not only allows us to welcome you into the profession and into our school community, but it gave us the opportunity to stress some of the foundational principles of our profession—integrity, ethics, service, and compassion for others,” said Lepowsky.
Virtually every dental school in the United States and Canada holds a white coat ceremony. Some schools hold the ceremony at the beginning of dental school, while others hold ceremonies as students enter the clinics. The School of Dental Medicine is one of the only dental schools that holds two ceremonies.
“At this time as you put your new white coats on, I’m going to ask you to take the time to reflect on the same guiding principles that we spoke about 572 days ago” Lepowsky continued. “And that’s the commitment to the oral health of individuals and to society, a commitment to serve others, and a commitment to do your best to make a real difference in the lives of individuals and communities.”
The alumni speaker, Dr. Tyler Aten, joined the ceremony virtually to give the class of 2024 some words of wisdom and practical advice as they head into this new phase of their dental school journey.
“As a UConn graduate myself, I fully recognize how difficult and challenging the first two years of dental school can be,” Aten said. “Fortunately, the resilience and perseverance that you develop during this time will serve you well in the rest of your career.”
Aten, who is now in private practice, graduated from the School of Dental Medicine 10 years ago. In the past decade, Aten learned several “big picture” lessons that he shared with the second-year students. These lessons include the importance of learning from failure, communicating effectively with patients, pursuing passions, and enjoying the journey.
The ceremony also included remarks on professionalism from Dr. Eric Bernstein, associate dean for academics, and a few words on ethics and patient care from Dr. Sophia Saeed, associate dean for clinical affairs.
Dr. Donna Paoella, associate dean for admissions, recited the School’s honor code that the students first signed when they entered dental school. Dr. Sarita Arteaga, associate dean for students, finished the ceremony by instructing the students to put on their new white coats and recite the professional pledge—officially kicking off the student’s transition into the clinical phase of their dental school training.
“It’s time to wear your coat and wear it proudly because you are now a provider. Even though you don’t have the degree yet, you will be providing care. This is an exciting time,” said Arteaga.
The full ceremony, streamed live for family and friends, can be viewed here.