White Coat Ceremony Kicks off Careers for Physician Assistant Trainees

Students gathered together to take a photo at their white coat ceremony

TylerAnne Valerio’s love of biology, pathology and anatomy left her with “a fascination for all things medicine,” she said, and a desire to experience the unique opportunities physician assistants have to switch between specialties. It was her work as a volunteer EMT that inspired her to be in a helping profession. 

“I wanted to become a PA in order to positively impact the lives of others in ways I believe are only possible through medicine,” she said. “I hope to help patients when they are most vulnerable and establish meaningful, trusting relationships with them.”

Three girls pose for a picture at the PA white coat ceremony

From left: Students Kathleen Bidad, Sydney Tang and Daniella Saghian pose together during the PA White Coat Ceremony on Feb. 19. Click photo to view the full PA White Coat Flickr gallery.

The Chicago native is now a student in Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences’ Master of Science in Health Sciences for Physician Assistants program, and pursuing what she calls her dream profession. 

On Feb. 19, Valerio was one of 47 students in the Class of 2022 to earn their short white coats during the annual white coat ceremony. Dr. Gerard Marciano, co-chair and director of the Physician Assistant Program, said the number of students in the program, 125 in total, was an all-time high. “You’re joining our PA program at a very exciting time of change,” Dr. Marciano said. 

According to 2018 statistics from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, the percentage of certified PAs working in a hospital has increased from 36.5 percent in 2013 to 40 percent in 2017, with full-time PAs seeing an average of 73 patients per week. And at a time when the United States is expected to have a physician shortage, PAs are very much in demand; the Bureau of U.S. Labor Statistics expects a 31 percent increase in the number of PAs from 2018 to 2028. 

“You will be working hand-in-hand with nurses, physicians, pharmacists and with patients’ families,” said Dr. Barbara Hempstead, dean of the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. “And your role is instrumental in making sure our patients have the best care possible.”

Valerio, who graduated last year with a bachelor’s in biology from Loyola University Chicago, spent many hours volunteering in the transplant unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and working as both an EMT and an ER technician.

Weill Cornell’s 26-month PA program, in particular, appealed to her for several reasons, from its location in New York City, to its surgery-focused program that will also provide her with “an excellent, well-rounded education” to the faculty and students she met on her interview day. 

“The faculty are incredibly kind and caring, and it is evident that they are willing to do whatever they can to help us succeed,” she said. “In addition, I have already made strong and honest connections with some of my amazing classmates. I can tell that our class will truly have each other’s backs on any given day.”

Click here to view the full PA White Coat Flickr gallery.

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