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SLU Doctor of Physical Therapy Class of 2024 Celebrates White Coat Ceremony

The Saint Louis University (SLU) Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Class of 2024 recently celebrated its initiation into the professional phase of the program by hosting a white coat ceremony. The ceremony took place at SLU’s Saint Francis Xavier College Church in late September and celebrated 83 students advancing to the professional phase of the program.

DPT Students Lined up outside of College Church awaiting White Coat Ceremony
SLU DPT Class of 2024 students lined up outside of St. Francis Xavier College Church awaiting their White Coat Ceremony.

In addition, the white coat ceremony included an address from SLU President Fred Pestello, Ph.D.; SLU Interim Chairperson of the Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training Chris Sebelski, PT, DPT, Ph.D.; student speaker Alysia Beirne, SPT; and the awarding of the Florence Kendall Service Award to Paula Burnett, PT.

The students from the DPT Class of 2024 were presented their white coats by students from the DPT Class of 2022, who are in their third and final professional year of the program. Beirne, the student speaker for the ceremony and one of the DPT Class of 2022 students presenting the white coats, discussed how much of an honor it was to wear her SLU white coat and what it represents to her.

“I recently completed 20 weeks of clinical experience this summer where I got to see firsthand how respected this program is in the world of physical therapy. You get held to a higher standard because you are representing SLU; therefore, earning your white coat is a very big deal,” Beirne said. “It is a rite of passage moving into the clinical world of physical therapy. This program puts us on the path to becoming great therapists.”

Andy Kendall, one of the DPT Class of 2024 students being honored at the ceremony, explained what it felt like to be recognized in front of friends, family and program faculty.

“It was such a prideful feeling to be able to participate in an event like the White Coat Ceremony. This was a time to acknowledge all the work that it took from everyone in our class to be here,” Kendall said. “Simultaneously, it was a welcoming into my future as a physical therapist.”

As he reflected on the ceremony, Kendall appreciated being able to celebrate the accomplishment with his classmates and professors. Kendall, though, had special gratitude for the DPT Class of 2022 students who wanted to attend and take part in the day.

“I was inspired by the Professional Year III students’ presence at the ceremony. I know they are busy with their course load and setting up their futures after they graduate, yet they chose to take the time to be there for us as we enter our graduate phase,” Kendall said.

In part of her address during the ceremony, Dr. Sebelski explained how the different aspects of the ceremony all worked together to describe their journey.

“The White Coat Ceremony has several aspects of symbolism: from the white of the coat that you will be donning, to the fact that a Professional Year III student will assist you wearing the coat for the first time, to the recognition of those that pursue residency; and then the honoring of a clinician for excellence in service through the Florence Kendall Service Award,” Dr. Sebelski said. “Each aspect of this symbolism represents the different phases of the professional journey you have embarked upon.”

View recording of the Program in Physical Therapy Class of 2024 White Coat Ceremony

Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of nearly 13,000 students on two campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of more than 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good.