LECOM Erie awards white coats to students

ERIE, Pa. – Welcome to the profession! That was the message LECOM medical and pharmacy students received during separate white coat ceremonies on Saturday, January 29, 2011, at the Warner Theatre in Erie. First-year students have completed their first semester of classes and are moving on to more hands-on, clinical health science education.

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LECOM medical students recite the Osteopathic Pledge of Commitment during the 2011 White Coat Ceremony.

The awarding of white coats symbolizes this important transition in the life of a medical or pharmacy school students. Two hundred and seventy medical students and 140 pharmacy students were welcomed to the stage to accept the first white coats of their healthcare careers.

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“It’s a very proud day,” said medical student Ryan Davis. “The White Coat Ceremony represents our initiation into the osteopathic medical field.” Davis said it was great to be recognized in front of family and friends, but he knows that this is just the beginning. “The field we’re going into is all about lifelong learning and continuing to work hard,” he said.

One person who knows all about hard work is Paula Miaczynski, D.O. Dr. Miaczynski, the keynote speaker at the medical school white coat ceremony, was a member of the first LECOM graduating class in 1997. She said she attended medical school while raising three children and admitted there were many challenging moments.

Dr. Miaczynski recounted how she would study late at night after putting her kids to bed. She also told students if she could do it, they can overcome whatever challenges they face during medical school. Dr. Miaczynski has a private medical practice in Meadville, Pa.

Medical school is quite a switch for student Tracy Espirita, who spent three years as an actress in New York City doing musical theater. She said she has reached a point in her life where she feels confident and happy. “It’s the beginning of a very long road, but I’m ready to take it,” Espirita said. “I have no regrets, and I’m looking forward to the road ahead.”

Paula Miaczynski, D.O., LECOM Class of 1997, served as keynote speaker for the LECOM Medical School White Coat Ceremony. Pictured with Dr. Miaczynski (L-R): Alice J. Zal, D.O., POMA President, Silvia M. Ferretti, D.O., LECOM Provost and Senior Vice President, and John M. Ferretti, D.O., LECOM President and C.E.O.

Kevin Brown’s wife, Sarah, and 15-month-old daughter, Gwen, watched him receive his white coat and stethoscope. Brown said it’s a long journey, but getting the white coat makes him feel like he’s closer to becoming a physician. “I think finishing the first semester really gives you confidence,” Brown said. “It lets you know that it’s definitely possible and something that you can accomplish.”

Alice J. Zal, D.O., 99th President of the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association (POMA), formally welcomed the student physicians to the osteopathic medical profession. Dr. Zal told them that POMA can be a valuable resource throughout their medical careers. POMA donated the white coats and stethoscopes, which Dr. Zal presented to the students on stage.

Each student reaffirmed their dedication to the osteopathic medical profession by reciting the Osteopathic Pledge of Commitment, led by Silvia Ferretti, D.O., LECOM Provost and Senior Vice President. The members of the Class of 2014 promised to provide compassionate, quality health care and commit themselves to the advancement of the osteopathic medical profession.

During the School of Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony, the Class of 2013 was greeted by keynote speaker Jeffrey Nowak, Pharm.D., a graduate of the first LECOM pharmacy class in 2005. He spoke of the importance that pharmacists have to uphold values, ethics and the ability to nurture trust between themselves and their patients. Dr. Nowak is currently the pharmacy manager at Community Health Net in Erie.

“Every year Gallup conducts a survey to determine how the public views the honesty, ethics and overall trustworthiness of various professions,” Dr. Nowak said. “Pharmacists, nurses and physicians are consistently ranked in the top five of all professions. All of these careers that people put the most trust in have an impact on either their safety, their security or their well being – these professions impact how people feel.”

“The white coat is a symbol of responsibility,” Dr. Nowak explained. “It is a symbol of trust; it is a symbol of your professional commitment to helping the community; and it is welcoming you into the pharmacy profession and an acceptance of the responsibilities of the profession.”

Jeffrey Nowak, Pharm.D., LECOM School of Pharmacy Class of 2005, gave an inspirational speech to pharmacy students at the LECOM School of Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony.

As for the many students who came before them, the 2011 White Coat Ceremony was a milestone for the students of the Class of 2013 who shone with excitement as they took to the stage to be helped into their coats by congratulating faculty members. As students stood in unison, donning their coats to recite the Oath of the Pharmacist, the sense of pride washed over an auditorium filled by loved ones, peers and leaders of the pharmacy profession.

“I want students to walk away from the White Coat Ceremony more fully appreciative of the awesome responsibility that they have undertaken in choosing to become a doctoral level pharmacist,” said the Dean of the School of Pharmacy, Hershey Bell, M.D., M.S. “It should affect the way they study and the way they approach patient care; indeed, it should influence every aspect of their lives as them embrace the idea that they are now pharmacy professionals who are charged with improving health care for all of humanity.”

According to Dr. Bell, each White Coat Ceremony is incredibly special in that every LECOM pharmacy class has enrolled students who have reached this milestone in a “unique and fascinating way.”


The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and LECOM School of Pharmacy offer innovative and affordable education in osteopathic medicine and pharmacy. From campuses in Erie, Pennsylvania, Greensburg, Pennsylvania and Bradenton, Florida, LECOM provides student-centered pathways to prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals. Prepare yourself for medicine as your life’s profession.

January 31, 2011
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