“White coat ceremonies introduce students to the care of patients,” said Jessica Messersmith, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of communication sciences & disorders. “These ceremonies welcome students to the profession and communicate what is expected of them as they practice in the field.”

The students who participated in the program are earning their graduate degrees in audiology and speech-language pathology. All will work and study in a clinical setting as part of their graduate program. Messersmith said that although some colleges that train audiologists hold white coat ceremonies, she believes USD is the only institution to hold such an event for speech-language pathologists.

At this year’s ceremony, students and family members heard from USD President Sheila Gestring as well as Elizabeth Hanson, Ph.D., who spoke on the history of the white coat ceremony. Teri Bellis, Ph.D., and Kyle Brouwer, Ph.D., also described the scope of practice of audiology and speech-language pathology, respectively. Students then recited the oath that faculty members wrote specifically for USD students, which included pledges to act professionally, continue learning, listen to patients’ unique human story and treat others with compassion.

Ashley Price, a third-year audiology graduate student from Creston, Iowa, recited this oath on Friday and was one of the students who suggested that the department hold a white coat ceremony.

“I have friends in the nursing program, and I liked how their ceremony presented them with white coats and acknowledged them as professionals,” she said. “I appreciated that our oath was tailored to counseling and teaching. It was very holistic.” 

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