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Members of physician assistant Class of 2016 receive their white coats


IU School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program, White Coat Ceremony,


INDIANAPOLIS — The IU School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences celebrated the induction of its second cohort of physician assistant students into the medical field by presenting them with their white coats.  All 44 students of the Class of 2016 donned their symbolic coats in a ceremony attended by nearly 300 family and guests at the IUPUI Campus Center.

With a mission to address the impending physician shortage in Indiana, the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program focuses on producing practitioners who hope to work in Indiana’s medically underserved areas. The 27-month program trains physician assistant students to work as part of a highly skilled medical team under the supervision of a physician or surgeon to address patient needs. Physician assistants have the ability to work autonomously to examine, diagnose and treat patients, and to prescribe medicines.

In his speech to the group, Dr. Timothy Pohlman, professor of surgery with the IU School of Medicine, reminded the students of the significance of their coats: The white coat signifies cleanliness, purity and a dedication to the ethical treatment of patients, he said. 

“But most importantly, it symbolizes power. This coat will make patients trust you immediately with their deepest secrets and their health and that of their loved ones. You must never take this power lightly or abuse it. It must always be treated with respect and directed in a manner that will help your patients.”

With students from across the country, including Texas, California, New York and Pennsylvania, the IU physician assistant Class of 2016 was also advised of the advantage they would hold in their future careers. 

“You will never be unemployed,” Dean Austin Agho said. “There will never be a time when your skills as a medical practitioner will not be needed.” 

His comment was spot-on, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which says the physician assistant field is estimated to grow more than 38 percent over the next decade — a much higher rate than other health care fields.

The IU physician assistant Class of 2016 left will continue with their classroom instruction for the next year and then into a full year of clinical rotations. The admissions cycle is currently ongoing for the next physician assistant cohort for the Class of 2017.