Seventeen students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program’s (DPT) class of 2014 were recognized at the annual White Coat Ceremony, held in the Gentry Building at the end of the semester. The White Coat Ceremony, a recognition event held between the students’ first and second year, is held prior to when the students go out on their first clinical rotation. The students recently finished their first full year in the program and will enjoy some well-deserved time off, before starting their clinicals in locations ranging from Connecticut to New York and Texas to California.
The annual ceremony is completely organized by the DPT students, who are responsible for planning and financing the entire event. The current class began the program in May of 2011 and started fundraising for it shortly thereafter. The ceremony, a tradition held at similar transition points by many doctoral programs, has been an annual event since the physical therapy program transitioned from a master’s to a doctoral program and was initiated by the first DPT class.
According to event organizer and class president, Elizabeth Leslie, “We raised money through UConn DPT clothing fundraisers, an event at Ted’s Bar & Grill and various class activities. We will continue our fundraising efforts to finance our graduation ceremonies in May of 2014.”
“The planning and fundraising took about a year with a few bumps in the road, but it was all worth it,” recalled Leslie. “The ceremony went smoothly and we all had a lot of fun.”
The program featured Dr. Craig Denegar, director of the DPT program, who provided the welcome remarks. Student representatives Elizabeth Leslie, class president, and Nora Therrien, class vice president, addressed the class with a short speech. Dr. Susan Sullivan Glenney, faculty member with the DPT program, spoke to the class on behalf of the faculty. Denegar and Glenney, along with DTP faculty member, Dr. Deborah Bubela, presented the white coats to the class.
When reflecting on the ceremony itself and the process involved, Leslie had the following insights, “Making it to this point in the program is worthy of celebration. I can remember looking back to last fall and certain points when we as a class — or I as an individual – didn’t think we/I could make it this far.”
“We made a lot of sacrifices to be here to commit to doing this, and I think it’s amazing that we as a class took the time to show others and ourselves what we have accomplished thus far,” she continued.
Like her fellow students who came from diverse academic backgrounds, Leslie graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a business degree. She worked as an insurance claims adjuster for two years, before deciding to return to school to complete the pre-requisite courses to apply to the DPT program. Other students completed their undergraduate degrees in varied programs, including Middle Eastern studies, family studies, history, marketing, education and sociology. There are also grads from exercise science, chemistry, biology and allied health programs.
“Some of us came here to UConn straight out of undergrad (programs), others of us worked as social workers, personal trainers, physical therapy aids, clinical research coordinators, insurance adjusters, legal assistants, special education teachers and bartenders,” noted Leslie. “Others of us worked for the WNBA, attended medical school and were involved in theater.”
Leslie chose UConn’s DPT program due to how the curriculum is laid out. “It’s different from other schools. Many schools front load their programs with classroom learning and send their students out on clinical affiliations all at the end of the program.”
UConn’s program is small, which Leslie believes is a major plus. “The faculty is interested in us, not just as students, but also as people with lives separate from our education. They are understanding, easy to get a hold of and easy to talk to. Conversations with professors are multi-dimensional and not just as student speaking with teacher.”
“The faculty truly wants us to succeed and we as students want each other to succeed,” concluded Leslie.
Since the students were required to plan and organize the White Coat Ceremony, they quickly learned how to work together and support each other’s successes. Something that will help them through the program and beyond.
For a slideshow from the event, click here.