ECU’s second-year dental students receive white coats, begin patient care

The East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine presented its second-year students their white coats on Friday marking the transition from preclinical work to the clinical phase of their dental education.

The 52 members of the Class of 2025 celebrated the rite of passage in front of family, friends, faculty, staff, administrators and members of the dental community during the White Coat Ceremony in Hendrix Theatre.

Before each student walked across the stage and donned his or her white coat, a special personalized slide was shared with the audience. Student Markus Mosley prepares to receive his white coat.

After students received their white coats, a special personalized slide was shared with the audience at the end of the ceremony.

“This ceremony marks a momentous event in your professional journey,” Greg Chadwick, dean of the ECU School of Dental Medicine, told the students. “It is a tradition that marks your transition from learning how to apply the clinical skills and knowledge you’ve gained to putting those skills and talents into action through patient care. From this point on, you will be held to a higher standard — that of a doctor of dental medicine and a member of the dental profession.”

Each year, the class votes on two faculty members for the honor of coating the students. The Class of 2025 selected Hanan Elgendy, clinical assistant professor in general dentistry, and Luis Sensi, clinical assistant professor and division director of operative dentistry. As each student’s name was called, Elgendy and Sensi helped them don their coats, which were sponsored by members of the professional community as a show of support.

Maggie Pafford, associate dean for student affairs, presented the class for coating. Pafford worked to make the Class of 2025’s ceremony special and representative of the class — and a meaningful milestone as they take another step toward becoming dentists.

“I love the symbolic and physical part of white coat ceremony,” Pafford said. “As students slip on this pristine, superhero-like outer covering, they can begin to feel the weight and responsibility of being a patient provider, yet look in the mirror and begin to see the doctor they’re going to be. The White Coat Ceremony specifically draws attention to this balanced relationship that we share with our patient.”

Each class creates a class pledge, which they read as a group during their ceremony. The Class of 2025’s pledge begins, “We, the Class of 2025, pledge to treat every patient to the best of our ability by working purposefully with our hands guided by compassion. We ardently vow to eradicate barriers by advocating for those voices often ignored.”

Following in professional footsteps

The Class of 2025’s White Coat Ceremony was particularly poignant for Pafford because she was a member of the school’s inaugural Class of 2015 and joined the school’s faculty in 2016 as a clinical assistant professor.

Allison Tempel, president of the dental school's Class of 2025, stands onstage with Greg Chadwick, dean, and Margaret Wilson, vice dean, after receiving her white coat.

Allison Tempel, president of the dental school’s Class of 2025, stands onstage with Greg Chadwick, dean, and Margaret Wilson, vice dean, after receiving her white coat.

“To be able to play a role in this milestone achievement is incredibly humbling and full circle,” Pafford said. “The clinical care component of our curriculum is unlike any other, and I’m so excited for our students to be able to fulfill the dreams that many of them had since they were children.”

Chadwick emphasized the white coat as a symbol of the relationship between patient and provider and its importance in the profession.

“The white coat symbolizes the confidence we have placed in you and your abilities,” he said. “It also symbolizes the most important relationship you will have in your professional life: the relationship between patient and doctor. That relationship is dependent upon your commitment to maintaining the highest ethical standards and professional values.”

During the ceremony, vice dean Margaret Wilson introduced speakers from across the profession, including Robert Hollowell, chair of the American College of Dentists, Carolinas Section; Theodore Roberson II, from the International College of Dentists; and Curtis Newsome, president-elect of the Old North State Dental Society. All shared greetings with the class and welcomed them to the next phase of their educational journeys.

Wilson also helped the students understand their place in the dental profession and their obligations from this point on.

“This is an important milestone in your professional lives because today is the day that you formally accept your responsibilities to your patients, to your communities and to society,” she said. “You are taking part in the tradition of white coat ceremonies that are held in health professions schools across the United States, and you are helping to shape the legacy and tradition that define the East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine.”


“This white coat is so much more than a coat to me. This coat represents the unparalleled opportunity that I have to care for and serve my patients, empowering them to find their inner strength. It represents the communities that I will be able to touch, and the opportunity to give back to communities that have given so much to me. This coat represents my commitment to medicine, my purpose in this field, my passion to serve, and my future, moving forward alongside of my colleagues, doing everything that we can to better the communities that we call ‘home.’ The white coat is a reminder of its own significance — long after it is taken off — of a commitment to serve patients with truth and autonomy at the forefront of their care. This white coat gives me so much hope for the future, and I am ecstatic to wear it with purpose, and to put it to use.” — Lydia Hartung


“Having the opportunity to wear this white coat is truly the reflection of the many mentors, loved ones and sacrifices that have guided me toward this level of representation. It is my duty to enthusiastically learn as much as possible in my time at ECU School of Dental Medicine, in hopes to proficiently serve as a catalyst for promoting oral health for the rest of my life. Nothing keeps motivation aflame more than hard work and the resulting momentum and fulfillment. Taking time to encourage patients to articulate their health goals and gain clarity on the results they wish to achieve will be rooted in the level of trust established within our interactions. Helping people define their future gives them the autonomy to lead a life full of energy, well-being and confidence in giving their smile to the world.” — Markus Mosley

“It’s an honor to celebrate with family and friends and that supported me. For them to be able to watch as I receive my white coat is exciting and is not taken lightly because it came at the cost of hard work and effort and late nights studying and practicing to perfect our hand-skills. It’s due to my family and friends and mentors support that I’ve been able to be in the position that I’m in now, so I’m excited for them to see this momentous occasion. It’s also such a memorable moment for the ceremony because it signifies the beginning of us having the honor and opportunity to care for patients. It will be such an honor to gain patients’ trust as we begin to interact and care for them to the absolute best of our ability.”­— I.J. Okons

“Reaching this stage is quite significant, and something that my classmates and I have been working towards since we chose dentistry. I remember volunteering at last year’s White Coat Ceremony and being excited but a bit scared that in a little over a year I was going to be in that same place and about to see patients for the first time. Many patients are quite anxious when they come to the dentist; I would like to ensure that patients know that they are safe and can trust me or anybody that works in that clinic. Helping patients maintain a clean bill of health both orally and systemically is our focus, but it is key they feel comfortable and heard when they come see us.” — Cesar Pelaez

“Put simply, reaching the clinical phase of instruction means the world. We still have a lot of work ahead, but we’ve accomplished so much as a class and truly have come a long way since the beginning. It’s incredible to think about all that we’ve learned in just a year and a half. Reaching this stage is exciting (and a little nerve-racking) because we finally get to start putting what we’ve learned into practice. The white coat itself, to me, is similar to a sports jersey; it’s part of our identity and a tangible representation of the sacrifices we have made in order to put ourselves in this position. But it is also a reminder that our primary devotion is to our patients, and in order to best serve them we must strive to be lifelong learners and always serve others. My goal is to be able to connect with my patients on a personal level and help relieve any anxiety they may have about receiving dental care. People want to be heard, and I believe that as the primary dental provider for many of these patients, it is our duty to be their advocate and make a difference in their lives.” — Philip S. Perdue

“As I enter the clinical phase of my dental school journey, I am filled with an eagerness to learn, whether this be learning new dental techniques and procedures or learning about the patients that I see every day. I aspire to be a provider that is a life-long learner, so that I can spread awareness amongst the dental community, in order to advocate for those who may repeatedly be overlooked. To me, the white coat is sort of like putting on your own special Spider-Man suit. You are granted a position of power that can ultimately change a person’s life, but as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. Wearing a white coat symbolizes the responsibilities we have, as providers, to care for our patients with the utmost respect by providing adept dental care.” — Erika L. Stevens, vice president, Class of 2025

“Reaching the clinical phase means that I have reached the point of why I came to dental school. I get to work with patients and develop relationships with those I work with and work on. I have worked hard the past year and a half, practicing and learning different skills in operative, endo, etc., and it feels like that work has finally paid off. We made it to clinic! To me, the white coat represents crossing the threshold from sim labs into working with real patients. It symbolizes what we all came to school for … to work with people and perfect our interpersonal and technical skills in an actual dental environment. The white coat is an honor, as it is represents our transition into clinic.” — Lauren Taylor Humphreys

“To me, getting my white coat means that I have lived up to not only my school’s mission but my own personal mission. I fell in love with ECU SoDM before I was accepted to dental school because of their mission of developing leaders and serving the underserved. Through the rigor of our first year, I was able to do just that. I was granted multiple opportunities that helped strengthen my leadership skills and allowed me to serve my community. Earning my white coat means that I am ready to continue living up to my school’s mission and ready to start serving my community as a provider. I definitely have mixed feelings about beginning clinic, but most of those feelings are excitement. I feel as though I have been preparing for this moment since I had my first realization that dentistry was what I wanted to pursue. Now that the moment is finally here, I need to trust the training that we have had, know that I have what it takes to start treating patients, and that I will continue to be surrounded my faculty that are willing to help me throughout this next stage in the journey.” — Allison Tempel, president, Class of 2025