When the 84 members of The Dental College of Georgia Class of 2019 donned their white coats for the first time July 22, Augusta University Provost Gretchen Caughman advised them to always be mindful of something: “Once you put it on,” she said, “whether you take it off or not, it’s still on.”
That white coat, Caughman said, is a symbol of professionalism that “requires you to honor a code you must uphold 24/7, 365 days a year.”
“For the past year,” Dean Carol A. Lefebvre told the students at the ceremony, “you’ve been practicing the technical aspects of dentistry. Now, you’ll have the privilege of treating patients.”
This is the 14th year that DCG has hosted a ceremony for its second-year students recognizing their official transition into the clinical portion of their education. The ceremony was preceded by several ethics discussions led by alumni. Participating alumni included Drs. Janine Bethea, James Cassidy, Wayne Maris, Terry O’Shea, Karyn Stockwell, Becky Weinman and Richard Weinman.
The White Coat Ceremony, held this year at Augusta University’s Grover C. Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre, was attended by hundreds of faculty, representatives of professional dental organizations, family members and friends. Vice Dean Kevin Frazier spearheaded the annual event as part of a nationwide trend of dental schools formally acknowledging the significance of the garment that enables at-a-glance recognition of the discipline’s professionalism.
‘The Best You Can Be’
“Today is really not about what you have done, but about what you will do during the rest of your dental education and, most importantly, throughout your career,” Frazier told the students. “Be the best you can be for the profession and for your patients.”
Dr. James Cassidy (’83), chairman of the Georgia Section of the American College of Dentists, encouraged the students to reflect on the symbolism of their white coats as they complete a dental education that inevitably will include “successes, challenges and, yes, some failures. But despite those challenges, I have one message: Enjoy it. There is no better time to be a dentist. On your worst day, let that linger in your mind.”
He said that during his own education at the dental college, Founding Dean Judson C. Hickey would visit every class and share a story. “Dr. Hickey said he took his car to a mechanic one day, and the mechanic observed, ‘You know, dentists and mechanics have a lot in common: We both take something that’s broken and fix it.’ Hickey responded, ‘That’s exactly right. Now, I’d like to see you try to work on that car while it’s running.’”
‘Your Highest Priority’
“Always remember,” Cassidy said, “that there is a person on the other end of that tooth. Professionalism can be defined in one word: integrity. It all comes down to the Golden Rule, doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. It’s up to us to ensure quality of care. Today’s environment is an opportunity to set about practicing at the highest level.”
He also advised each student to “take good care of yourself. Good health is everyone’s greatest source of wealth, and you can’t help others unless you’re taking care of yourself.”
His parting note was to counsel the students to keep their priorities in order. “Do not equate money with success,” Cassidy said. “What counts about success is how an individual achieves it. Make love your highest priority. Love is the most enriching ingredient of life.”