By Gerard Flanagan, news writer/photographer/social media, Office of University Communications
HARRODSBURG, Ky.—As Ashli Watts, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and member of the Campbellsville University Board of Trustees, prepared her keynote address for Campbellsville University’s School of Chiropractic’s first-ever White Coat Ceremony in Harrodsburg March 18, she discovered the white coat held a special meaning.
“It shows that your hard work and dedication is not just for a job, but for your life’s profession,” Watts, a 2004 graduate of Campbellsville University, said to the nine students who received their white coats during the ceremony.
The White Coat Ceremony marked the official entry of students into the School of Chiropractic, and it signified the start of their journey to become a Doctor of Chiropractic.
Students receiving their white coats are as follows: Tyler Bragg of Campbellsville, Ky.; Abigail Davenport of Lawrenceburg, Ky.; Macy Hagan of Springfield, Ky.; Kaylee Wheatley of Loretto, Ky.; Samantha Hutchinson of Versailles, Ky.; Isaac Eshleman of Renfew, Penn.; Sean Crall of Indiana; Daleyn Emerson of Russell Springs, Ky.; and Brandon Bennett of Columbia, Ky.
Chiropractic and medical schools across the United States commemorate students’ entry into the healthcare profession by presenting them with their first white coat—a short version of the long coat typically worn after graduation.
“This is a wonderful symbol to truly embed that being a doctor is not simply a job. It’s a much bigger responsibility than just a job,” Watts said. “It is a life’s work, a profession and a journey.”
Watts encouraged the students to reflect and enjoy the moment.
“You’ve worked hard and will continue to work hard for the privilege to care for your fellow human beings, to respond to the call of those who are suffering,” Watts said, “and offer your presence, your compassion, your attention and skill, in hopes of making a difference.
“Ultimately this white coat ceremony serves as one of life’s mile markers, a time to stop and reflect on the importance and impact of your chosen career.”
Dr. Trevor Foshang, dean of chiropractic education, said, “This is a historic event for this institution and an important moment for these students.”
Foshang said white coats were originally worn in scientific labs to keep a scientists’ clothes clean. They were adopted as standard dress in the late 19th century.
“The white coat symbolizes an evidence-informed approach,” Foshang said. “It symbolizes the responsibilities of a doctor to acquire a tremendous amount of knowledge, apply this knowledge in proven principles to treat patients, provide guidance and help heal them.”
Foshang said a white coat is also used to carry tools—such as a stethoscope or reflex hammer—and the weight of those tools can make the coat feel heavy.
“They should feel heavy for several reasons, beyond the weight of the actual coat,” he said. “Every time you put that white coat on, I want you to feel its weight, that its weight be a reminder of all the work you have put in and will put in. Patients will expect the very best from you, as we do.”
Dr. Dennis Short, associate vice president for chiropractic education and dean of chiropractic operations, told the students they have benefited from a network of support that has helped them get to this point.
“Nobody lives in isolation,” he said. “Behind every successful student, there is a supportive spouse, friends, moms and dads, and for this, we thank you.”
Short recognized the approximately 100 chiropractors in attendance at the ceremony. They also received a white coat.
“We are so happy you came to celebrate these students,” Short said.
The first cohort of students at Campbellsville University’s School of Chiropractic, which opened in January, will graduate in 2025.
“I am proud of who they are and who they are becoming,” Short said. “They are some of the brightest students and most dedicated students I have ever known.”
Short then asked the students for a favor.
“I ask we all work together,” Short said. “Let’s work together to tear down the walls that separate us and preserve and expand this great profession.”
The Campbellsville University School of Chiropractic is the first in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the only one within a 300-mile radius. It is only the 20th nationally accredited chiropractic doctoral program in the country. The school is just the fourth affiliated with a regionally accredited liberal arts university.
Unlike traditional chiropractic schools, Campbellsville University has built a contemporary and clinically relevant program that prepares students to succeed as a new doctor and as the CEO of a small business – a distinctive advantage considering 85 percent of chiropractors own their own practice at some point in their career, according to Career Trend.
Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs, told the students they are a history-making class, as the first group of students at the School of Chiropractic.
“Starting a new school during a pandemic is not easy,” she said. “But I believe things happen in their own timing for a reason. This group is meant to be our first cohort. You students are creating history. You are blazing a trail.”
Dr. Joseph Hopkins, president of Campbellsville University, said the students who graduate from the School of Chiropractic will not only be chiropractic doctors, but they will also be a “salt and light” to a world in need.
Hopkins thanked students’ family and friends as well as chiropractic professionals for their role in the educational careers of the chiropractic students.
“Your support and encouragement will sustain and lift these students as they work through examinations, labs, readings, practicums and applied treatments,” he said. “Together, with the faculty and staff of this school, you will help us prepare a mighty army of healers who will provide genuine care for patients.”
Following the ceremony, and after family and friends congratulated their white coat students, a group photo was taken of the students with chiropractors and their professors.
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university that has enrolled up to 12,000 students yearly. The university offers over 100 programs of study including doctoral, masters, bachelors, associate and certification programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.