June 15, 2010 - Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (LMU-DCOM) will hold the Inaugural Class White Coat Ceremony for the Physician Assistant Program Class of 2011 on Saturday, June 19, 2010, at 10:00 am in the Tex Turner Arena on the LMU campus in Harrogate, Tenn.

The first White Coat Ceremony was held in 1993 at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and is now a standard ritual in physician assistant programs as well as allopathic and osteopathic medical schools across the country. The White Coat Ceremony is an important, public demonstration of a student’s commitment to patient care and professionalism. During the Ceremony, each physician assistant student is presented and “robed” with his or her short white laboratory coat. The Ceremony is considered to be a rite of passage, in that an individual has demonstrated the qualities and abilities to provide competent care and can move on to the next phase of his or her training.

“The first White Coat Ceremony for the LMU-DCOM Physician Assistant Program is a great milestone,” said Dr. Michelle Heinan, program director. “The students have worked hard and will now be entering the next phase of their education. The LMU-DCOM PA program is looking forward to having the students out in the medical communities, and I know the students are excited to get out on their new adventure. We are very proud of all of them.”

The Physician Assistant profession is one of the fastest growing in the country and was recently named by Forbes magazine as the best master’s degree for jobs in the United States. According to the magazine, the profession has a 39% projected employment increase. Mid-career median pay for physician assistants is estimated to be $98,900.

A physician assistant is educated in the medical model. PAs are nationally certified and work side by side with both osteopathic and allopathic physicians in every medical specialty. PAs are licensed to diagnose illness, prescribe medications and assist in surgery. They conduct physical exams, order and interpret medical tests and provide counseling on preventive health care. A PA has at least six years of education: a four-year undergraduate degree and their physician assistant degree. The White Coat Ceremony for the LMU-DCOM Physician Assistant students kicks off the students’ clinical rotations, which begin in July. PA Program students at LMU-DCOM will complete a minimum of 1,920 clinical rotation hours prior to their graduation as Physician Assistants in July 2011.

Dr. J. Dennis Blessing, associate dean for South Texas Programs and chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, will be the keynote speaker for the ceremony. In 1976 Blessing earned his Bachelor of Health Science from the Physician Assistant Program at Duke University in Durham, N.C. Blessing pursued the physician assistant career after returning from service in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and became a physician assistant during the first 10 years of the profession’s existence in the United States. As a physician assistant Blessing has practiced in a rural practice, a rural health clinic, a Native American and indigent clinic and a county emergency room. He has a passion for primary care, health care teams and educational and faculty development opportunities. His many awards include being named Educator of the Year by the Texas Academy of Physician Assistants in 2005 and being named to the Physician Assistant Hall of Fame at Duke University in 2002. In 2001 he was the first recipient of the Outstanding Research Award from the Association of Physician Assistant Programs.

The DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine is located on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. LMU-DCOM is an integral part of LMU’s values-based learning community, and is dedicated to preparing the next generation of osteopathic physicians to provide healthcare in the often underserved region of Appalachia and beyond. For more information about LMU-DCOM, call 1-800-325-0900, ext. 7082, e-mail, or visit us online at

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