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White coat ceremony “history in the making” for IU School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences


INDIANAPOLIS -When 44 students in the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program in the IU School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI donned white coats, it was history in the making.

The recent white coat ceremony heralded a new chapter for the school, which launched the physician assistant program with its first class of students in May.

“We are going to have many more ceremonies like this one, but none will be quite as special,” said Austin Agho, dean of the school. “This is a historical moment.”

The program’s mission is to produce graduates who will work with Hoosiers in medically underserved areas. Physician assistants work in partnership with a physician to serve patients’ needs. The students are in a 27-month program and will graduate in August 2015.

The group of 44 students will help fill an incredible need for health care practitioners, particularly in medically underserved rural and urban areas in Indiana, said Dr. Gaylen M. Kelton, founding director of the program and a professor of clinical family medicine.

Kelton said there are three other physician assistant programs offered by universities in the state, but all of the graduates from all of the programs still will leave an unmet need.

As the students sat on the stage in the theater in the lower level of the Campus Center, Kelton reminded them of their ABCs: “You are ambassadors for our program who believe in your legacy as pioneers in this new program and are set to be challenged.”

Kelton also noted the historical nature of the ceremony at the white coat ceremony.

“This is a very special evening, not only for our students who will be receiving white coats, but for their families,” Kelton said. “It’s also a special evening for our program and our school. So welcome to history in the making.”