Drake’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (CPHS) recently welcomed 49 members into the Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) Class of 2023 and 77 members into the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) Class of 2024. The College continued its tradition of welcoming the incoming students through a two-day professional orientation program, culminating with the White Coat Ceremony.   

The academic performance and demographics of these classes reflect the intent of Drake to maintain its high academic standards for admitted student pharmacists, recruit a diverse cohort of students, and attract students from a wide range of geographic locations The OTD Class of 2023 and the PharmD Class of 2024 begin their professional journey with a solid academic foundation. Both classes had a pre-professional average GPA of 3.5 with a range from 3.0 to 4.0. The CPHS commitment to diversity is reflected in both classes. Fourteen percent of the OTD Class of 2023 and seventeen percent of the PharmD Class of 2024 identify as students of color. Forty-three (43) of 49 OTD students and 51 of 77 PharmD students identify as female. The OTD and PharmD classes are also geographically diverse. Students come from as far as California, Arizona, and internationally, joining students from Iowa and surrounding states. 

The CPHS welcomed each class during two White Coat Ceremonies on Friday, August 24th in Sheslow Auditorium, utilizing different practices given the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020 ceremonies, the students were seated and proceeded across the stage using social-distancing practices. Instead of having faculty assist them in donning their white coats, they put their coats on themselves, signifying their responsibility in taking on the responsibilities of their professions. Instead of having family and friends attend in person, the ceremony was both live-streamed and recorded at https://www.drake.edu/cphs/white-coat-ceremony/. Instead of the typical celebratory reception following the event, Hy-Vee provided each student with a gift card to hold their own reception.  

Renae Chesnut, dean of the College, provided opening remarks during each ceremony. Chuck Phillips, associate dean of curriculum and assessment, announced the students as they walked across the stage one-by-one and donned their white coats for the first time. OTD students heard remarks from Laura Brady, Student Governance O3 Class Representative, and Steven Bowen, President of the Iowa Occupational Therapy Association. Bowen led the OTD students in reciting the Professional Oath of an Occupational Therapist. PharmD students heard remarks from Olivia Welter (P4), 2020 Iowa Pharmacy Association Karbeling Leadership Award Recipient, and Kate Gainer, Executive Vice President and CEO of the Iowa Pharmacy Association. Gainer led the PharmD students in reciting the Professional Oath of a Pharmacist. 

“The White Coat Ceremony is one of the most significant events that our PharmD and OTD students experience as they begin their journeys in our professional programs,” said Renae Chesnut, dean of the college. “As a result, we developed plans to hold a physically-distanced, safe event that allowed our students to come together as a class to don their white coats and take their professional pledges.”