The Rhodes University Pharmacy Department recently held its annual White Coat Ceremony at Chemistry Major to officially inaugurate 2nd-year students into the world of pharmacy.
The ceremony saw students being cloaked in their white coats, after which they recited the Faculty’s Pledge of Professionalism, which outlines the fundamental values and obligations expected from each student. These address patient care and ethical practice, which are required to be upheld by the budding pharmacists as they embark on their journey as health practitioners. The ceremony was conducted by Professor of Pharmaceutics, Prof Rod Walker, and Head and Dean of Pharmacy, Prof Santy Daya.
The white coat is rich in symbolism and practicalities, which have made it an esteemed garment for over a century. It made its debut in the late 1800s, prior to which it was a traditionally beige coat worn exclusively in laboratories by scientists.
When it was first adopted by physicians, the coat was black to reflect the somber nature of the work and as a sign of respect for the dead when working with bodies. The white coat only came about in the middle of the 19th century after laboratory scientists tainted the prestige of medical physicians by indicating that their so-called “cures” were in fact, worthless, referring to them as ‘quacks’. In an attempt to re-gain the trust of patients, physicians sought to represent themselves as scientists and so they adopted the scientific lab coat as their standard of dress.
The white coat has since been considered a cloak of compassion and patients prefer practitioners in white coats since it represents a level of professionalism and is easily identifiable.
By being inducted into the discourse of pharmacy, the students pledge a promise to diligently pursue pharmacy education and training, prioritising the needs of their patients above their own, and to respect and value the healthcare profession by being tolerant, compassionate, and honest. They also pledge to respect, support and encourage classmates to adhere to disciplinary codes, behave honorably within their pharmacy careers, and strive to be worthy of the privilege of being a pharmacist. “You are now in a position of power to change someone’s life through the decisions you make,” said Prof Walker.