Doctor of Physical Therapy Students Receive White Coats as Alums Celebrate 50th Reunion

UConn's is among the top ranked and longest continuously operating DPT programs in the country

Students in an auditorium

Doctor of Physical Therapy students receive their white coats at a ceremony held May 13, 2023. (Jason Sheldon/UConn Photo)

On Saturday May 13, 2023, 28 students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program received their white coats in the Student Union Theater.

The program, which is housed in one of the nation’s top ranked departments of kinesiology in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, was founded in 1956 and is one of the oldest continuously operated programs in the country.

The White Coat Ceremony represents the end of students’ classroom experience as they start their clinical practice. Students received their white coats from the faculty members with whom they have worked closely over the past two years. This is also the last time the cohort will be together until graduation as they will be sent throughout the country for clinical rotations.

This year also marked the 50th reunion for the class of 1973.

Each white coat contained a card with a message of advice and congratulations from an alum of the program, a testament to the importance of the program’s network during and beyond the students’ academic experience.

“That was a really nice way to integrate our reunion class and our white coat class,” says Maryclaire Capetta, interim program director and assistant professor-in-residence of kinesiology.

The event honored Chuck Cota ‘73 with the Joseph Smey Excellence in Physical Therapy Alumni Award. Smey was the director of the physical therapy program and dean of the now defunct School of Allied Health at UConn. Smey, now retired, was in attendance at this year’s ceremony. The Class of ‘73 was the first class Smey taught.

Cota was nominated by his coworkers at Yale New Haven Hospital, Diana Carrano, a fellow ‘73 alum, and Roland Perrault ’82, ’89, who is also the president of the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources Alumni (UCAHNRA) Board.

Cota worked at Yale New Haven for 48 years before retiring in 2021. He was a physical therapist and later manager of rehabilitation services. During his career, Cota was instrumental in developing four physical therapy departments at the hospital’s St. Raphael and Milford campuses.

“It was really a big honor for me,” Cota says. “I’ve always felt very close with UConn and the staff here. I also know many of the past recipients and to be mentioned alongside them is really quite an honor.”

After the presentation of the Smey award, there were two speeches by student-selected speakers: Assistant Professor Sudha Srinivasan and Joe Podurgiel, a student from this year’s white coat class.

Following the ceremony, students, alumni, faculty, and families attended a reception on the Student Union terrace.

“It’s a great opportunity for interaction between our current students and our alumni. It really shows the longevity and the impact of our program,” Capetta says.

The Class of ‘73 alumni then toured the UConn campus and the new Human Anatomy Learning Lab (HALL) in the Department of Kinesiology before their reunion reception.

Cota gave the white coat students some words of wisdom from the other side.

“Stay in contact with the school and your fellow classmates,” Cota says. “I think that’s really important because it’ll enrich your career and it’s good to stay in touch with people.”


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