DDS, Students

White Coat Ceremony Focuses on Beginnings

Even the stirring sight of dozens of white coats being donned couldn’t compete with the smiles as the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry DDS Class of 2012 celebrated its transition from preclinical coursework to patient care.

Dean John N. Williams and Dr. Albert D. Guckes, assistant dean for predoctoral education and admissions, presided at the 5:15 p.m. March 6 ceremony. Family members and other loved ones attended the event, which was followed by a reception.

“The White Coat Ceremony is not just a turning point in dental education; it represents the beginning of the transition from student to clinician,” said David Walker, third-year dental student and president of the Spurgeon Dental Society. “As clinicians-in-training, students are confronted with countless new challenges to overcome and skills to acquire; and, by receiving the white coat, they pledge themselves to a process of lifelong learning as they continue to master the art and science of dentistry.”

Walker gave the student address at the ceremony.

Dr. Al Wilder, professor of operative dentistry, gave the faculty address. In his speech, he discussed “The Top Five Things You Should Know About Dental School – and Beyond,”  which he defined as listening, preparing, being open-minded about the future, being positive and engaged in the profession and – coming in at the number-one spot – having empathy for your patients.

“Don’t just treat your patients; care for your patients as you would care for a member of your family,” Wilder told the Class of 2012 in his remarks. “Treat them as you would have them treat you. Always put your patient’s best interest above your own. This is true in school, and it is true in practice. Patients trust you to do that, and it is your responsibility to do so.”

Wilder will become the School’s new assistant dean for admissions on July 1, when Guckes steps down from this role to return to teaching, research and patient care.

The members of the Class of 2012 donned their white coats, then recited “The Dentist’s Pledge” and the “Mission to Serve.”

Guckes gave the closing remarks, thanking the parents, spouses and others whose support had helped the students reach this point in their professional careers. He also urged members of the Class of 2012 to “seize the day” and make maximum use of the many opportunities available during the four-year DDS curriculum.

“In my view, the greatest satisfaction available to members of the dental profession comes from simply helping people,” he said. “The White Coat Ceremony symbolizes the point at which DDS students begin to turn a significant portion of their attention from the didactic and technical aspects of dentistry to assuming the responsibility for managing the care of patients, which, in most cases, will be their life’s work.”