Optometry Students at University of Houston Earn White Coat Status

Annual ceremony marks transition from classroom to caregiver

Ninety-seven students participated in a symbolic rite of passage that marks an optometry student's transition from the classroom to caring for patients during the University of Houston College of Optometry's sixth annual White Coat Ceremony this month.

The second-year professional students received the traditional white coats at a Jan. 4 ceremony. The coat is embroidered with the student's name and the College of Optometry's emblem, and is a hallmark of the health care professions. During the ceremony, students recite the Optometric Oath and vow to practice the profession with honor and compassion.

"The White Coat Ceremony is an important milestone for our students and the optometric profession," said Earl Smith, dean of the College of Optometry. "The coat is a symbol of purity and beneficence, and serves to reaffirm the trust that patients and their families are placing in the hands of these future doctors. With that trust comes a responsibility to maintain the highest professional standards at all times."

The coat is earned by passing a competency exam administered by the College of Optometry, which is required before UH students begin clinical rotations. The students will begin clinical training under direct supervision of faculty members during the spring semester and will alternate between classes and clinical rotations until they complete their degree requirements at the end of their fourth year.

"Presenting these students with white coats just before they begin their clinical training reinforces their commitment to our patients and to our profession," said Nick Holdeman, executive director of the University Eye Institute and chief of medical services for the UH College of Optometry.

This year's White Coat Ceremony was supported by a $10,000 donation by Wal-Mart and Sam's Optical. The ceremony, which was first conducted in 2003, is held annually with 95 to 100 students participating each year.

The College of Optometry provides vision care to more than 30,000 patients each year through the University Eye Institute. In addition to the comprehensive in-house clinical training, optometry students gain diverse clinical experience during externships in hospitals and health centers in Houston, the nation and abroad.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A photo of the White Coat Ceremony is available on the Web at http://www.uh.edu/news-events/archive/nr/2008/01jan/white-coat-ceremonyph.html. A high-resolution photo is available by contacting Ann Holdsworth.

About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.

About the UH College of Optometry
For more than 50 years, the University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO) has trained optometrists to provide the highest quality eye and vision care. One of only 17 optometry schools in the United States, UHCO offers a variety of degree programs, including Doctor of Optometry (O.D.), a combined Doctor of Optometry/Doctor of Philosophy (O.D./Ph.D.), Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). UHCO consists of 65 full-time faculty, 206 adjunct faculty and 100 full-time staff.

To receive UH science news via e-mail, visit http://www.uh.edu/news-events/mailing-lists/sciencelistserv.