Class of 2026 receives support—and a surprise—during White Coat Ceremony
August 26, 2022
Last Friday, 127 aspiring veterinarians, wearing their newly bestowed white coats, rose from their seats at the Moss Arts Center and took the veterinary student's oath. With that, the students were officially welcomed into the profession as the Class of 2026, the 43rd class of veterinarians to be educated at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.
Dean M. Daniel Givens welcomed the students saying, "This important event marks and celebrates the induction of trainee veterinarians into a distinguished profession. This profession requires specialized knowledge and intense preparation founded on service to society and the advancement of medical knowledge. What specifically do these white coats represent? White coats signify that recipients are not just students, but veterinarians in training and outstanding patient care is rooted in scientific knowledge and skills that will be developed throughout the veterinary curriculum.”
The students were also welcomed by the Veterinary Medical Associations of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia reflecting the regional status of the veterinary college.
Director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and immediate past president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association William S. Swecker Jr., who received his DVM and PhD from the college, invited the new students to a unique event developed between the veterinary college and the VVMA. Mentor Day illustrates the support students receive from their profession.
"On that day, we have a large group, usually 80 to 100 veterinarians from Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia, who come to Blacksburg with one goal in mind to meet you, to talk to you, to learn about you and potentially mentor you through the process you are about to undertake. I am very proud of those veterinarians who are proud of you and who want to come and support you."
Elizabeth Heppner, president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, also advised students not to be afraid to ask for help.
"No one else will know quite what you're going through more than your classmates in the next few years which will help you to form lifelong bonds. Your state associations are here to support you both through your studies and after graduation. When your hard days come, remember all that you have accomplished. Remember, you're surrounded by support."
Jeff Alexander, the newly-appointed president of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Board of Directors, reinforced the importance of reaching out for support.
"For some of you, going into vet school and being in vet school will be the hardest thing you ever do, and I'm not saying that to scare you or any of that. But it's true, and so reach out to people. You're not doing this by yourself. You've got a huge support system."
Then came a surprise display of encouragement: the pocket of each white coat contained a note of support from an alumnus.
"We're here for you. We're excited for you. On behalf of the 4500 alumni of the college, we welcome you to the profession of veterinary medicine,” said Alexander.
The white coats and notes have created a new way for alumni to give back: alumni can sponsor a white coat for $50. A small portion covers the actual cost of the coat while the remainder contributes to DVM student scholarships. Alumni were encouraged to submit a note to the incoming students, welcoming them to the college and their new professional association.
One alumna, Courtney Wiegard (DVM '05), who is on the alumni board of directors and works locally in Roanoke, was initially interested in having the alumni in her practices sponsor coats. Wiegard approached National Veterinary Associates (NVA), who said they were interested in donating the whole amount!
For the first time, the White Coats are fully sponsored - some through alumni and the remainder through NVA. Their gift provides critical funding to help support DVM student education as they advance through the rigorous veterinary curriculum.