Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences students take a group photo in their white lab coats during a ceremony last Wednesday. The coats symbolize the students’ commitment to the pharmaceutical industry. (Photo by Sam Heller)

The Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences welcomed this year’s incoming class to the school’s Colchester campus August 23 for the annual White Coat Ceremony.

The ceremony, in which faculty members drape incoming students with their first white lab coats, symbolically marks the end of their general studies and formally initiates them into the profession.

Students enter the school’s graduate track after completing either a two-year pre-pharmaceutical program or a traditional, four-year bachelor’s program for their undergraduate degree, said Jennifer Payne, director of student affairs.

For the next four years, the students will begin to learn the pharmaceutical trade as they work toward their pharmaceutical doctorate, or Pharm. D., Payne said.

Wes McMillan, director of pharmacy at the University of Vermont Medical Center, was the event’s keynote speaker. He took the podium to address the audience of roughly 100 students and family members seated in rows of folding chairs.

“This represents years, I’m sure, of hard work and diligent study that you’re bringing to this point, so in that sense it represents a goal. You’ve achieved your admission to the doctor of pharmacy program, you have achieved you admission to the profession of pharmacy. This marks the start of another journey,” McMillan said.

McMillan then handed the microphone to Robert Hamilton, dean of the school of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences, who read the names of the matriculating students.

As their names were read, students carried their white lab coats to a group of faculty members standing to McMillan’s right. The faculty members held the coats by the lapels and helped the students pull them on.

After the last student had pulled on her coat and returned to her seat, Audrey Wilkerson, president of Vermont’s chapter of the American Pharmacists’ Association, led the students in their recitation of the Pharmacists’ Pledge of Professionalism.

According to the organization’s website, the pledge outlines the expectations and standards that members of the association hold themselves to as a professional community.

Repeating after Wilkerson, the students vowed to remain loyal to their colleagues, serve their patients competently and maintain the ideals of the profession.

“These high ideals are necessary to ensure the quality of care extended to the patients I serve,” Wilkenson read aloud. “Therefore, I will strive to uphold this pledge as I advance towards full membership in the profession.”

“…in the profession,” the crowd of students echoed.

After the ceremony, the Class of 2021 walked to the front of the building. Students hugged their friends and relatives before lining up to take a class picture in their pristine white coats.

For white coat recipient Noor Hage, studying at Albany College of Pharmacy is a continuation of a dream she’s had ever since the summer before her freshman year of college at the University of Michigan in Dearborn.

“I actually worked in a community pharmacy as just a cashier and I ended up falling in love with just the pharmacist patient interactions,” she said. “It just really drew me into it, and I chose this as what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

During that summer, Hage and a pharmacist rushed to an emergency call.

“There was one elderly patient who needed her medication right away, and so after work I went with the pharmacist to that patient’s house and we delivered it to her,” Hage said. “I just remember how appreciative she was of the pharmacist going out of his way for her.”

Hage said her white coat represents “the beginning of the beginning,”

“It’s the beginning of a whole lifetime for me,” she said.