First-year EVMS students take on medical field as pandemic continues

Posted at 9:56 PM, Jan 06, 2021

NORFOLK, Va.— Some Eastern Virginia Medical School students stepped on campus for the first time since their acceptance to the university to celebrate their induction into the healthcare field Wednesday.

The annual white coat ceremony for students entering the physician assistant master’s program was not canceled because of COVID-19, but instead, altered for safety.

Traditionally, the ceremony happens at an opera house, and loved ones are invited to watch and take pictures with the students in their short, white coats to welcome them as students of the medical profession.

This year, there were no friends and no family because of the pandemic. The magic moment when the coat is placed on the student is recorded for virtual viewing.

One by one, students are given their white coats and walk into an auditorium on EVMS’ campus to find their assigned, socially-distanced spots. They walk onto a stage and speak their name into a microphone, and one faculty member places the coat on them.

The masked event is much less grandiose this year but still special for students.

“Getting the opportunity to be here is plenty to be thankful for. I’m not complaining," said Christopher Zyra.

After gaining experience in the healthcare field, Zyra is eager to take this next step to make a difference in patients' lives.

“My ultimate goal is to get into a good position where I can come to work and help people every day,” he said.

Carly Westbrook says the pandemic reaffirmed her purpose in the healthcare field, even as the virus hits close to home.

Related: EVMS student shares what it’s like becoming a doctor in a coronavirus world

“Yesterday, my father was diagnosed with COVID-19 and he was admitted to the ICU back at home, so I’m hopeful we can get a good control on this very quickly,” said Westbrook.

The next 28 months will surely be exciting and, at times, difficult as they navigate learning virtually while the pandemic presses on, but they’re confident these won’t be the last white coats they ever wear.

Click here for full coronavirus coverage.