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Optometry class of 2020 pledging at their white coat ceremony.

Fifty first-year optometry students were presented with white coats—a symbol of passage from the classroom into clinical training—at The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry’s annual White Coat Ceremony, held Friday, March 10, at the UAB National Alumni Society House.

Dr. Kelly Nichols, dean of the School, opened the ceremony by praising the achievements of the Class of 2020 and urging the students to consider the responsibilities that come with caring for patients.

“You are responsible to do no harm to your patient and to provide excellent clinical care, all the while demonstrating professional and ethical behavior, and most importantly, a caring and compassionate attitude,” Nichols said. “It is your responsibility to recognize and respect the rights of your patients, and it is your privilege to care for them.”

Dr. Allen Dunn, president of the Alabama Optometric Association and an alumnus of the School, was the guest speaker at the ceremony. He emphasized the importance of persistence and hard work in his address to the students.

“Find out what’s possible,” Dunn said. “Set goals. Be persistent and determined. Work hard.”

Dunn, who practices in Troy, Alabama, said part of working hard is to be willing to work when others are not.

“Some of the most faithful patients I have are those for whom, on a Friday night, I removed a foreign body from their eye,” he said.

Working hard also means being willing to take on challenges, Dunn said, like prescribing specialty contact lenses or treating glaucoma.

“A lot of people don’t want to treat glaucoma,” he said. “But if you don’t treat it, your patients may have to drive an hour away to get treated.”

The white coats presented to the students were provided by the Alabama Optometric Association.

This is the first time coats were presented to first-year optometry students. Before recent changes were made to the School's curriculum, the coats were presented at the beginning of the students’ second year of optometric education.

After receiving their coats, the students pledged their commitment to uphold and promote the highest standards, ethics and ideal in their patient care.

“You will provide vision and eye care to thousands of patients throughout your career,” Nichols said. “But, more importantly perhaps, you will make an impact on how they see the world."

View more photos of the ceremony here.