The white coats ceremonies at the schools of pharmacy go ahead after Omicron delays

Reporter's Diary

The white coats ceremonies at the schools of pharmacy go ahead after Omicron delays

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White coats AK 2022
The 2022 second-year students, Auckland University’s School of Pharmacy faculty staff and pharmacy sector guests

“You should not think of this as a jacket of’s a jacket of knowledge”

Wide grins shone through the masked faces of 99 Auckland School of Pharmacy students as they took part in the perennial white coats ceremony on Monday.

Though no parents were there, pharmacy leaders looked on with familial pride as the students were presented with the coats and a Code of Ethics manual from the chief executive of the Pharmacy Council of New Zealand, Michael Pead.

Though actual smiles were invisible behind the masks, it wasn’t hard to sense the entire crowd beaming and wishing the best for the incoming pharmacy workforce.

There was also a clear sense of relief the that the ceremony could finally take place after being delayed by the first Omicron wave in March this year. In 2021, the ceremony was able to go ahead only with the students and immediate faculty staff due to COVID-19.

Top students 
White coat recipient Mitchell Wong

Getting into pharmacy school is a big deal. It seems only the brightest and best students are selected after completing a science degree or the first year of a health science degree.

On enter the second year of their Bachelor of Pharmacy, they receive the famous white coats. That revered cloth creates a sense of belonging and inspires students as they take a step further toward their career aspirations.

As student Mitchell Wong says, “I actually feel like I’m part of the faculty today. I am looking forward to learning what pharmacy is all about. I think it has so much to offer.”

The intake of students was high this year, almost reaching “our full complement of 100 domestic students”, says programme director Lynne Peterson.

She added that seven students of Māori origin and six of Pacific origin have started the programme, which is the highest intake ever.

Joie de vivre 

Though a serious occasion, the presenters, which included Ben Oldfield, principal pharmacist at New Zealand Clinical Research, took a lighthearted approach, dropping one-liners which produced some laughs.

The humour was balanced with an emphasis on the responsibility of the job they’re working towards.

“You should not think of this as a jacket of dispensing ... it’s a jacket of knowledge,” said Shane Scahill, head of the Auckland school. 

“You’re the medicines experts in the room. You know your stuff and if you don’t know, you know where to find it.”

The ceremony was followed by the traditional photo on the foyer steps, nibbles and a mix and mingle with sector leaders.

Adding to faculty staff were Andrew Gaudin, chief executive of the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand, Michael Hammond, vice-president of the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand, Alison Van Wyk, group chief operating officer at Green Cross Health and Andi Shirtcliffe, chief advisor of pharmacy at the Ministry of Health.

Ms Shirtcliffe spoke enthusiastically of the future of pharmacy when students graduate in a few years’ time.

“There are loads of opportunities for pharmacists coming up. Te Whatu Ora are giving positive indications that the scope of pharmacy will be widening.”

Prizes for top students 

The event was also the 2021 official prize giving for part two, three and four students:

Parts 2 and 3 Prizes

  • Experiential Learning Prize Part 2 – Genevieve Nicholson
  • Top Student in Pharmaceutics Part 2 – Grace Lee
  • Hauora Māori Development in Pharmacy Practice Part 3 Prize – not awarded
  • PSNZ Leadership in Pharmacy Studies Part 3 Prize – Rhea Colaabavala

Part 4 prizes

  • GXH Clinical Professional Skills Prize – Vida Bojovic
  • GXH Leadership in Pharmacy Studies Part 4 – Daniel Seng
  • NZHPA Clinical Pharmacy Prize – Gwen Luong
  • PSNZ Top Overall Student Prize – Bree-ana van der Oest
  • Pharmacy Guild Top 4 Student – Bree-ana van der Oest
  • The Dean’s Medal – Daniel Seng
  • Research Group Prize – Alison Gan, Naseeba Kaskar, Danielle Legaspi, Jubilee Mortera, Jessica Wu
University of Otago ceremony 

Seventy-five students attended the University of Otago School of Pharmacy’s white coat event on 16 July.

Vice-chancellor David Murdoch and pro vice-chancellor of health sciences Patricia Pries opened the event, speaking of the importance of pharmacists and their expanding roles in the health system. 

Carlo Marra, dean of the Otago School of Pharmacy, spoke about the importance and symbolism of the white coat ceremony and the induction into the profession of pharmacy, as well as the crucial role pharmacists play in health care.