College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Neb., celebrated its first-ever Occupational Therapy White Coat Ceremony on Sunday, Jan. 19. The event recognized occupational therapy doctorate students, including Lana Rideout of Moorhead. The group of students will begin the clinical care portion of the curriculum, and in celebration of that, they were presented with their white coats during the ceremony.

"We are fortunate to have an outstanding cohort of 28 strong women leading the inaugural occupational therapy doctorate class," said Dr. Kristin Haas, director of the Occupational Therapy Doctorate program. "We're excited to watch as this group continues to grow in their knowledge and skills as occupational therapists and reach toward the ideals they are pledging to today."

Mindy Barna, associate dean for health professions, presided over the ceremony. Katherine Ondracek D'22 led the opening prayer. The opening remarks were given by Dr. Haas, and Daniela Rojas, occupational therapy program coordinator, presented the keynote address. Amber Schubert D'22 delivered the student speech. Dr. Maryanne Stevens, RSM, president of CSM, provided the closing remarks.

"I want to congratulate each of my classmates for making it through the first semester of our doctoral program. It is such an exciting milestone," said Schubert in her speech. "This white coat is a symbol of our hard work, a representation of our success, and a chance to show others that we can [be occupational therapists]. Our white coats also show that we are capable of pursuing a dream and making that dream become a reality."

After receiving their white coats, the students were officially welcomed into the occupational therapy profession by Dr. Erin Westover, assistant professor of occupational therapy at CSM and a representative of the Nebraska Occupational Therapy Association. During the ceremony, the students also recited the occupational therapy student oath, which was created by the inaugural class.

The White Coat Ceremony is an important ritual across the medical profession that welcomes students into the healthcare field. The white coat itself represents medical and professional excellence in addition to compassionate care.

For College of Saint Mary students, the white coat also symbolizes a commitment to the OTD program mission statement and to upholding the values in the OTD curriculum. Receiving the white coat signifies that the CSM students will deliver quality occupational therapy services, attend to all dimensions of a client's well-being (mind, body and spirit), and be leaders in the field.

This is the inaugural White Coat ceremony for the students in CSM's newly-launched OTD program. Upon receiving their white coats, the students will begin fieldwork and start working directly with clients while completing their coursework, with expected graduation in May of 2022.

Widely recognized throughout the region for its expert faculty and stellar board pass rates, CSM's master's-level program transitioned to a doctoral degree program in August. Through the college's unique undergraduate pathway, new students can start right out of high school and complete both their undergraduate and doctoral work in a total of six years.

Students who enter the program with three years of college credit and specific pre-requisite courses are able to earn their OTD degree in three years. The OTD degree is one of more than 35 programs and majors offered by the university.

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