JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The "white coats", not the red ones, filled the Fowler Center at A State Friday afternoon.
Around 800 people filled the building in anticipation of the White Coat ceremony.
Dean of the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine at A State, Dr. Shane Speights, said they hold this event for the new medical students.
"We are welcoming the second class," Dr. Speights said. "For the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University. These are brand new students who are starting their first year of medical school. If you'll remember, we were here this time last year starting our first class of 120 students. Those are now second-year students that have progressed on and now we're bringing in our next first-year class."
Dr. Speights said the White Coat ceremony is symbolic and something they will do every year for all new medical students.
"What we make significant about the white coat ceremony," Dr. Speights said. "Is basically it's symbolic in terms of the students are now moving into the profession of medicine. The short white coat represents the medical student. The longer white coat represents a physician who is in practice or has finished their training. This is a rite of passage for most students throughout medical school in the nation. So, this is a major milestone for students at this campus that are moving on and starting their profession in medicine."
Dr. Speights said this is a win-win situation for the college and the community.
"This is an amazing opportunity," Dr. Speights said. "Not only for the students but for this region and for Jonesboro. Also, for the profession itself. What we've done here is bring in an entirely new group of citizens into our community who will become physicians and hopefully train in our community and in our region and provide care for the needy in our area."
Dr. Speights said their goal is to train physicians who might someday treat people right here.
"Our focus is to recruit students in this region," Dr. Speights said. "To get them to stay in this region to practice medicine. But there's no reason why we can't recruit young talented individuals into our area. Get them to see what Jonesboro is all about and get them to stay here. One of the things we've been so excited about with our first-year class is that we had a fair number from outside the state of Arkansas that came in. They got to see Arkansas for the first time. They got to see Jonesboro. Now, they're saying this isn't a bad place to live or raise a family or even stay and work and thrive in. That was the mission of the school. Was to have physicians train in Arkansas for Arkansas."
And it looks like it's working.
Ryan Hicks from Elgin, Illinois is a first-year medical student.
He wants to go into primary care and likes what he's seen of the NYIT program so far.
"The NYIT program in itself is a very reputable one," Hicks said. "Which is why I applied in the first place. I had heard nothing but great things and I knew I'd be a prepared physician afterward. The Arkansas State campus, to be honest with you, it's an incredible opportunity. It's a newer program at this point in an area of the country that needs physician support. So, there's lots of opportunity and lots of areas to explore at this point. It's definitely a jumping board."
Hicks said he's also enjoying Arkansas.
"Besides passing through to go to Memphis, I have never been to Arkansas," Hicks said. "I love it. It's too hot though! I'll be honest with you. I'm a little northern. It's tough walking to class and sweating for the five minutes of walk that I have, but I'm getting used to it. And I love the people down here and I especially love the food!"
Blake Bowen is from DeWitt, Arkansas and is also a first-year medical student.
He said he hopes to specialize in Family Medicine or Surgery.
"When I learned what OMM was," Bowen said. "And holistic care, caring for the patient and not just giving them a pill, it really interested me. The one thing I'm looking forward to is the hands-on approach. And really getting in there, because I've always been a hands-on person."
Dr. Speights said their program has a lot to offer.
"In terms of the partnership with Arkansas State University," Dr. Speights said. "Truly that's a collaboration between two major institutions in the nation that can come together for one solid purpose for a greater goal. The backing that Arkansas State University has in terms of its depth of alumni and its broad programs, that was just a no brainer for NYIT to come and partner in this region. Being able to have both of those powerhouses together truly makes this a positive experience for everyone."
123 students are beginning their medical careers at the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine at A State this year.
For more information about their program, log onto their website.
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