School of Health Professions

“We all have the same simple, yet honorable reason for being here — to help people”

Doctor of Occupational Therapy Class of 2025 poses after receiving white coats on May 3.

The Doctor of Occupational Therapy Class of 2025 celebrated its accomplishments in scholarship, leadership, service and research during its white coat and recognition ceremony on May 3 in Holly Auditorium.

The students received their white coats and pins at the end of their second year in the program and ahead of their final year, which includes a capstone experience. 

“Occupational therapy is a vital and unique health profession that focuses on supporting people  to find ways of living and doing the things that are important for them,” said Bridgett Piernik-Yoder, PhD, OTR, FAOTA, program chair and professor and associate dean for academic affairs for the School of Health Professions. “In your level two fieldwork and capstone experiences, you will use your knowledge, skills, compassion and equally importantly, your confidence in why occupational therapy is so critical to people across the lifespan, to various populations and to communities.”

The white coat ceremony typically represents the transition from a program’s classroom phase to its clinical phase, School of Health Professions Dean David Shelledy, PhD, RRT, FAARC, FASAHP, told the students in his remarks.

“The white coat is a symbol of your dedication to professionalism, to service and to the provision of the very best patient care,” he said.

Before students walked across the stage one at a time and were helped into their white coats by a faculty member, student Taylor Ochs shared remarks on the symbolism of the white coat.

“We will all now have the opportunity to apply what we have learned and put it into practice,” Ochs said. “We wear these white coats with pride, knowing that they represent a powerful symbol of transformation and a commitment to our profession. These white coats mark the end of our classroom learning and usher us toward the beginning of our place in the world as essential health care professionals.”

After the students recited the Occupational Therapy Oath, Class of 2025 President Joseph Baralt, delivered a closing statement, reflecting on the classroom and clinical experiences the class has had and sharing his belief that each student will go on to create their own legacy in the profession.

“At the end of the day, no matter what specific interests we may have and no matter the environment that we come from, we all have the same simple, yet honorable reason for being here — to help people,” he said. 

Also during the ceremony, students received certificates for service, research and scholarship. Kristelle Cefre received the 2024 Wilma West Award, a special recognition created in 1983 to recognize the student who most represents the ideals of the profession and of Wilma West, an occupational therapy leader and humanitarian. Cefre was selected by her fellow students and faculty for the honor.

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