Kentucky College of Optometry holds White Coat Ceremony for Class of 2024

The University of Pikeville – Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO) welcomed its fourth class of optometry students with a White Coat Ceremony on Saturday, April 9, in the Health Professions Education Building. The invitation-only event for family members was live-streamed via Facebook for the community.  

KYCO Dean Michael Bacigalupi, O.D., M.S., FAAO, FNAP, was among the leaders who greeted the 57 students and spoke about the resulting challenges to education from the pandemic.  

“The class of 2024 entered optometry school at a very uncertain time. History has shown us that in times of crisis, the ones who succeed are the ones who stick together,” Bacigalupi explained. “This class communicated with each other, and supported each other to get here today. They demonstrated their toughness, strength and grit. They engaged in learning in all formats and stayed on track to reach today’s white coat ceremony. We are incredibly proud of them for protecting themselves and each other during the pandemic.”

The White Coat Ceremony is an important first step in the career of a future optometrist, serving as a rite of passage for health professional schools around the country. On Saturday afternoon, the class of 2024 committed to patient care and their future with the recitation of the KYCO Profession Conduct Pledge and the donning of the white coat. 

UPIKE Provost Lori Werth, Ph.D., congratulated students on this momentous occasion. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Donald Egan, O.D., FAAO, DNAP, spoke about the significance and symbolism of the white coat.

Delivering the keynote address for the ceremony was Christine Cook, O.D., FAAO, president of SECO International, also known as the Southern Council of Optometrists, the largest optometric educational provider in the profession. Cook has been in the optometric field for more than 20 years and serves as an adjunct faculty member of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University. 

Cook spoke to KYCO’s class of 2024 about the changes in legislation governing the optometric profession, encouraging KYCO’s new student optometrists to get involved. She also encouraged them to discover the aspects of optometry they are passionate about and to trust their training. 

“You have the entirety of your professional life as an optometrist ahead of you. So many possibilities await you. You get to explore the many facets of eye care as you enter the clinic, and discover which areas pique your interest,” said Cook. “It all lies ahead of you and it all comes faster than you think. But for the present, as you enter the clinic, remember that you are ready. Your faculty and staff at the Kentucky College of Optometry have prepared you well. I wish you the greatest success in your future endeavors.”