KYCO Honors Class of 2026 at Traditional White Coat Ceremony

The Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO) held its traditional White Coat Ceremony on Saturday, April 6, in the Health Professions Education Building. Fifty-three members of the Class of 2026 received their white coats before a gathering of family, friends and university faculty.

KYCO Dean Renee Reeder, O.D., FAAO, FBCLA, FSLS, FIACLE, welcomed guests and remarked on the importance of the next steps in their journey toward becoming optometrists. 

“It’s not just eyes, it’s lives,” said Reeder. “Today you move from that academic side to that clinical side, where you take the knowledge that we have bestowed upon you and apply it to make a difference in all those lives.” 

The White Coat Ceremony marks the transition for the Class of 2026 from classroom learning to clinical practice, symbolizing their dedication to patient care. It serves as a significant milestone in the journey toward becoming optometrists, embodying a tradition upheld by health professional schools nationwide. During the ceremony, the class recited the KYCO Professional Conduct Pledge and donned their white coats, affirming their commitment to their profession and the well-being of their future patients.

For a second time, Michelle Cooper, O.D., delivered the keynote address for the ceremony. Cooper has been a practicing optometrist for 30 years in Greenville, S.C. She has served in various professional leadership positions, including president of the Piedmont Optometric Society, secretary-treasurer, and president of the South Carolina Optometric Association. She has also served on the board of trustees and is the immediate past president of the Southern Council of Optometrists.

Cooper addressed the students about the symbolism of the white coat and encouraged them to trust themselves in moments of doubt.

“My hope is that throughout your career you use your knowledge and skills to the fullest to keep moving our profession forward. You will question yourself a lot,” said Cooper. “Have faith in your training and your education, and most of all yourself.” 

Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and Associate Professor Optometry Cliff Caudill, OD, FAAO, FNAP, coated students and led them in reciting the KYCO Professional Conduct Pledge. 

“This ceremony represents the next phase in our program in which students begin their role as a clinical optometrist in training, where they begin to learn the art and science of vision and healthcare in a clinical patient care setting,” said Caudill. “The white coat ceremony symbolizes and affirms the student’s commitment to the care and well-being of a patient’s vision, eye health and overall wellness.”