With compassion and excellence: Katherine Harris White Coat Ceremony Cloaks DPT Class of 2024

Ideals of compassion and striving for excellence hallmarked the Katherine Harris White Coat Ceremony for the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Class of 2024. The uplifting ceremony celebrated 63 graduates in their transition from didactic education to clinical settings in Quinnipiac’s 50th year of physical therapy instruction.

School of Health Sciences Dean Janelle Chiasera welcomed an overflow crowd joining physical therapy program faculty leadership at the North Haven Campus on December 15. Addressing the cohort, Chiasera urged them to wear their white coat with pride, and as a constant reminder of the profession’s core values and principles.

“I ask you to remember this moment that you donned our white coat. Remember the pride that you feel inside you,” said Chiasera. “It really is a cloak of responsibility, compassion, and healing. It signifies that commitment that you’re making today to the health and wellbeing of others.”

Department of Physical Therapy chairman Ken Kosior said the Class of 2024 personifies the consistency and maturity the department strives for in its cohorts.

“Your level of professionalism and determination to pursue your professional aspirations throughout the past two-plus years has left a lasting impression on the Quinnipiac physical therapy community,” said Kosior.

In his keynote address, Hartford HealthCare Community Network Vice President of Rehabilitation and Quinnipiac alumnus Christopher Carlin, ’97, discussed the continued commitment and lifelong learning intrinsic to the field.

“The physical therapy profession requires commitment, dedication, and flexibility. At times, we ask you to put the needs of your patients above your own, and to make personal sacrifices for the good of others,” said Carlin. “But in return, the field provides so much opportunity, joy, and fulfillment. Like me, you will certainly be inspired by the contagious passion of physical therapists, their commitment to excellence, the strong bonds they form with their patients, and the amazing results they help to achieve.”

Faculty speaker Karen Blood, assistant professor of physical therapy, helped to honor Harris, who served as chair and program director of the physical therapy department until her passing in 2020.

Blood also prescribed six foundational principles to assist the cohort with patient and personal care. She said perhaps her favorite principle is championing interprofessional collaborative practice inclusive of patients and their caregivers.

“It reminds us that we are stronger together. Your faculty have guided you thus far, and we are still here when you have ideas to discuss, to share your triumphs, or pick you up when you’re not as successful as you desired,” said Blood. “No matter where your individual paths take you, do not try to go through the next phase alone. You may not always be physically with each other, but I know you will always be there for one another.”

Student speaker Michael Lacovara, DPT ’24, said much has changed since the cohort first formed.

“We have transformed into a close-knit group of friends that have grown exponentially in our knowledge, experiences, and skills. When I look out among my class today, I see a group of dedicated, driven, and selfless individuals who will soon reach their ultimate goal as practicing physical therapists,” Lacovara said.

Duane Scotti, faculty advisor of the Graduate PT Club, recognized the significant accomplishments and service of executive board members Meghan Lowe, DPT ’24, Haley Wong, DPT ’24, John Marion, DPT ’24, Rebecca Cummings, DPT ’24, and Eden Montgomery, DPT ’24.

“This collaborative group of students demonstrated a commitment and dedication to spread awareness of the physical therapy profession not only here on campus, but within our local communities, surrounding towns, at the state level, as well as the national level,” said Scotti.

Lowe shared the history and significance of the medical profession’s white coat ceremony. For physical therapists, Lowe said the white coat is a reminder of their ethical and professional responsibility to provide compassionate, person-centered, and evidence-based care to patients, as members of the interprofessional healthcare team.

The ceremony was supported by lead sponsor Hartford HealthCare. Program sponsors were IvyRehab, and Professional Physical Therapy. Supporting sponsors were Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Centers, and Spear Center for Physical Therapy.

Lowe thanked the sponsors for helping to continue the tradition of the annual Katherine Harris White Coat Ceremony.

“Dr. Katherine Harris consistently lived by the words, ‘demonstrate compassion and strive for excellence,’” said Lowe. “Through this quote, the legacy of Kathy will continue to guide us as we embark on our final clinicals across the country. Although many of us were never able to personally meet Kathy, her impact was demonstrated within all of our professors, and has been instilled in us since the moment we sat down in this very room for orientation.”

The audience broke into applause as the individual members of the Class of 2024 were cloaked, with assistance from Kosior and faculty members Kathleen Kelley, Juan Garbalosa, and David Wallace. After slipping into their white coats for the first time, the DPT Class of 2024 rose and took the Oath for Physical Therapists.

With their new white coats, Chiasera said each graduate has been granted the privilege to be a healer, a source of strength, and a beacon of hope for those in need of encouragement.

“As you move forward, I hope you always remember the significance of the white coat, and the responsibility that it carries with it,” said Chiasera. “Cherish the very moments that you have in front of you to learn. Embrace the challenges that you will encounter with resilience, and nurture the passion that you have inside you, because that will be a beacon of hope for someone that you work with.”

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