Determination, open-mindedness and adaptation – together they made up the reverberating themes at the Spring 2014 School of Veterinary Medicine White Coat Ceremony, held Monday, February 3, in Patrick F. Adams Hall.
The White Coat Ceremony marked a significant milestone at for the entering class of 100 future veterinarians as students donned their white coats and recited the Oath of Professional Commitment. Dr. Ted Cohn, President-Elect of the American Veterinary Medical Association, delivered an animated keynote address to the Adams Hall crowd, beckoning the incoming class to liken their approach to veterinary school to the attributes of dogs and cats.
“One of the best aspects of being a veterinarian is being able to learn life lessons by observing animals,” he said. “You don’t have to be less cat or more dog to be better, but you must be willing to give yourself the chance to accept challenges as they come along, because eventually challenges turn into opportunities that will allow you to learn and improve yourself so that you can be better veterinarians and people. If we give ourselves half the chance, we can learn from animals all the time.”
Recalling an incident at work with a cat that was bent on retrieving a slice of pizza from his desk, Dr. Cohn encouraged the students to never lose sight of their goals. “Heightened commitment is what got you here, don’t lose it now,” he said. “I guarantee you that it will definitely come in handy over the next few years, and throughout the rest of your career.”
The students were similarly challenged to remain open-minded to various career paths because an unexpected prospect may become the opportunity of a lifetime. Dr. Cohn highlighted adaptation as his favorite animal attribute, referencing that when things don’t go their way or when life throws curveballs, they adapt and persevere. He also said that veterinary medical students – and doctors – can take a page from cats’ behavior.
“Take a break, slow down, enjoy life, and just do what makes you happy,” he said. “Don’t worry about what others think. As the old adage goes, ‘those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter.’ … There’s a world of opportunities out there, so seize it, learn from every experience, don’t miss out on new opportunities, think critically, learn the intricacies of communicating with others, build and maintain relationships, remain flexible, and never give up on your dreams.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by Dr. Brian Butler, DVM SGU ’04, MPH SGU ’05, Master of Ceremonies, and University Chancellor Charles R. Modica who urged the students to take advantage of the unique educational experience at St. George’s University.
“You have been given the opportunity to study in an international university and to work with people from around the world with unique backgrounds,” Dr. Modica said. “You’re in a school where not only will you learn veterinary medicine and learn it well – you will be a part of a global community of healers who have gained a unique understanding of the global impact of all you do as a practitioner.”