On Sunday, July 15, 2018, members of the New England College of Optometry (NECO) Class of 2021, AODP 2020, ASIP 2020, and the MS/OD China 2020 gathered with families, faculty, and staff at the annual White Coat Ceremony at George Sherman Union at Boston Union. At the event, students received their white coats and letters granting them clinical privileges. This ceremony marks a milestone in the OD course of study as students begin direct patient care with placements within the NECO Clinical Network in addition to their coursework.
At New England College of Optometry, this honor comes after a great deal of hard work and study, and it marks the transition from student to doctor-in-training. Students receive their white coats after completing introductory coursework, hours practicing and mastering their clinical technique, and initial patient care observations and student screenings. For the four-year OD program, this increased clinical responsibility comes at the beginning of the second year of study. Students in the advanced, accelerated, and international programs mark this occasion immediately prior to starting clinical placements.
Barbara McGinley, MA, Associate Dean of Students, welcomed all in attendance to the White Coat Ceremony and introduced the speakers on the stage. President Howard Purcell, OD ’84, FAAO, Professor Bina Patel, OD, FAAO, and Alumni President Linda Bennett, OD ’80 took turns addressing the group and sharing advice. Interim Dean Sandra Mohr, MS, MA, EdD welcomed the group and introduced each white coat recipient as they came to the stage. Professor Bina Patel, OD, and Associate Professor Maureen Hanley, OD ’81 distributed the white coats and Dan Bastian, OD ’12, FAAO, presented the clinical privileging letters.
Bina Patel provided the opening remarks, noting, “Today you are here to get a white coat. It symbolizes your journey into the clinical world and your service to others.” She encouraged the group to respect, support, and encourage each other and those around them as they strove to be tolerant, compassionate, and honest in all they did for themselves, their patients, families, and society. She pushed them to work hard, saying, “Success doesn’t come from sitting around, it comes from working hard and being at the right place at the right time.”
Marking his first official event as President, Howard Purcell, OD ’84, FAAO, welcomed the group and congratulated their achievements. “Today is a pretty special day in your career,” he explained. “Today, not only do you become a clinician, but you have the duties and responsibilities that come along with it.” He encouraged students not to become overwhelmed by their growing responsibilities as they become responsible for the health and well-being of their patients. “The rest of your life will be building on the things you learn in the next few years and beyond because you will continue to learn everyday as clinicians.”
President Purcell shared advice his father had shared with him, noting that they are each human and should be ready to make mistakes. He noted, “Hopefully, your mistakes will be minimal and few and far between, but mistakes will happen.” He went on to explain, “Mistakes are part of what happens as a clinician, but how you handle those mistake and address them, how you deal with patients in those situations, will truly determine your success.”
Noting the mission of the College to change the way people see the world through optometric education, discovery, and service, President Purcell shared the impact service has had on his own career. He noted his experiences traveling to Africa and realizing the impact impact of providing eyeglasses and contacts to individuals who’s livelihood was influenced by not being able to see. On these trips, “I realized the power of what we do. It’s not just about helping people see better. It’s not just about treating eye disease. It’s not just about the day to day routine, it’s about changing people’s lives in such a big way. What you do is so much more than just helping people see.”
Dr. Linda Bennett welcomed the future alumni to the NECO alumni community and offered encouragement. She explained, “You are taking on a big responsibility to yourself and to your patients and to your profession. Don’t be rushed. Learn your skills, that is job you have. Make a commitment – a commitment to your patients and a commitment to be the best you can be. A commitment to refer patients when you need to and a commitment to your families.” Students and their families enjoyed a reception following the ceremony.
View photos on our Flickr site.
About New England College of Optometry
New England College of Optometry, NECO, is an independent graduate college of optometry that educates students for careers in eye care delivery, research and education. NECO was founded in 1894 as the Klein School of Optics, and is the oldest continuously operating school of optometry in the United States. NECO prepares the next generation of eye care providers, educators, leaders, and innovators through a rigorous curriculum and extensive clinical experiences. Through a vast network of clinical affiliations, our students put patient care first, providing vision care to children, older adults, the homeless, and individuals with disabilities through our work in our optical centers, school programs, community programs, community health centers, and VA medical centers.
Media Contact: Ingrid Hoogendoorn, Director of Communications