MU College of Veterinary Medicine students will celebrate receiving their white coats virtually this year after the college canceled its annual ceremony last week because of COVID-19.

The White Coat Ceremony marks the transition into clinical work following two years of preclinical training. It is a family event where students are called up individually to receive their white coat from a friend, mentor or family member.

This year, it will look a bit different.

While the event won’t be held as a traditional ceremony, students will pick up their white coats and have the opportunity to take pictures throughout the weekend, said Carolyn Henry, the dean of the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. The pictures will be collected from students to create a video celebration in place of a ceremony.

“With COVID-19, we've had to look at how we can safely do this, but we still wanted it to be something very special for the students to remember,” Henry said.

Some students petitioned for the ceremony to be held in person. Henry spoke with MU administrators to see if an in-person ceremony would be possible, but it was decided that the potential health consequences outweighed the benefits, she said.

“Part of our veterinary oath, as a student even mentioned in one of their comments, is that we also are concerned with the protection of public health,” Henry said. “This is part of what our profession is intended to help protect. This is, unfortunately, one of those times when we need to put that first.”

Though students at the MU School of Medicine were able to have a socially-distanced White Coat Ceremony in late July, Henry said circumstances have changed since the summer and this is a reality that other veterinary and medical schools across the country are facing .

MU also announced last week that December graduates would be recognized at a virtual commencement, with plans for a future in-person ceremony for both them and spring and summer 2020 graduates.

There is not yet a set time regarding when the celebration video will be released.

  • Kaylee Schreiner is a general assignment reporter for fall 2020 studying convergence journalism. Reach her at kss6gc@umsystem.edu.

  • Galen Bacharier is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. He has reported on higher education, state government and breaking news. Reach him at galenbacharier@gmail.com or on Twitter @galenbacharier.

  • Elizabeth Brixey is the Columbia Missourian's education editor and an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and brixeye@missouri.edu.

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