On Friday May 4th, 2018, the 2nd Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) cohort (c/o 2019) at the GU Ruskin campus gathered with faculty, families, and loved ones at Prince of Peace Catholic Church to display their scholarly research for Celebrate Ruskin and to attend their White Coat ceremony.

Around 2pm, OTD students awaited anxiously near their research posters that have been worked on throughout the program. Students completed various components of research courses required for the OTD program, which included submitting to an IRB committee, conducting research in the community, and writing up research papers to be submitted to scholarly journals. The process was long and demanding to date, but it was all worth it as families and faculty stopped by as students eagerly discussed their research findings. Pictured to the left are OTD students Mallory Rickloff & August Mezzio presenting their research titled, “Survey of Client Experience with Orthotics Using the Quest 2.0.”

Other students presented their posters as well from topics ranging from caregiver education to homelessness and self-esteem. All of the presentations were phenomenal and went smoothly. Families and loved ones were engaged and proud of all the hard work put into the projects. Everyone gathered to celebrate by taking photos and delicious cake while a video highlighting the fun moments of the year played in the background [watch the video here!].

Around 3pm, everyone gathered inside of the church to take their seats for the ceremony presenting the white coats to the OTD students. Although students are graduating in 2019, the purpose is to present the students with the white coat as a symbol that each individual will enter their Level II field placements honoring the occupational therapy Code of Ethics and provide compassionate care to every client in the summer and fall during their clinical rotations. The students gracefully walked into the church as families and loved ones were seated anxiously waiting for their students to walk through the doors.

The ceremony began with a beautiful opening prayer by Seminarian Matthew Himes, brother of OTD student, Rebecca Himes. It was a wonderful moment for the siblings to share the moment together in support of the GU Ruskin students.

A welcome speech was given by Lynzie Sauls, GU Ruskin Administrative Assistant and the Mission and Vision were gracefully versed by OTD student, Miremonde Joseph. After the welcome/mission/vision, Dr. Thomas Laster, OTD Program Director spoke on academic rigor. Dr. Laster addressed the successes of the program thus far, from gaining accreditation status from ACOTE to having students and faculty who truly go above and beyond in the program through classwork and beyond. After Dr. Laster addressed academic rigor, Dr. Dianna Lunsford was introduced to speak on the Code of Ethics of which every OTD student will follow throughout clinical rotations and through their careers. Dr. Lunsford spoke on the OTD process and that it is not an easy one- from stressful nights studying for exams to making time to volunteer.

Dr. Lunsford spoke with poise and accuracy of the OTD experience that many of the GU Ruskin students could relate very closely to. She spoke on highlights of the students throughout the program thus far such as presenting research at the state and national OT conferences to fundraising for our many community partners.

After Dr.Lunsford explained the importance of honoring the Code of Ethics, Lynzie introduced the presentation of the white coats and signing of the Code of Ethics. Gannon OTD professors, Dr. Kristin Valdes, Dr. Stephanie Adams, & Dr. Barbra Katerberg presented the white coats to each student as they walked across the stage and signed the Code of Ethics with Dr. Lunsford.

Parents and loved ones cheered as each student received their coat. It was truly a proud moment for every person in attendance. After students all received their coats, they were seated for the much-awaited student speech, delivered by OTD students August Mezzio and Kelly Daniels. The pair delivered a light-hearted speech highlighted some moments from the moment of orientation back in 2016 to some of the big successes over the last two years. Closing remarks were given by Dr. Valdes as she reminded everyone the character it takes to make it to this point in a doctoral program and the grit needed for success in the classroom and beyond.

After the closing of the ceremony, students gathered for a group photo and made their way outside of the church to embrace, celebrate and take more photos! The event was a success and every student was overjoyed with happiness that they could move on confidently to the next chapter of their lives during clinical rotations.


As I reflect on the last two years and how it has all led to this moment, I want to express a thank-you to every one of my faculty members and my classmates for allowing me a platform for success and a shoulder to lean on during the not-so-successful moments. Thank you to every family member that came out to support us & thanks to the wonderful 2nd year OTD students to volunteering your time to help us prepare for the event. I also want to wish my classmates and any other student beginning fieldwork all the best. Remember to use your clinical reasoning skills and to not be afraid to ask questions or be open to learning. If you are ever nervous, just know you have support all around. If you are a new student or close to the end, just know that it will all be worth it! Can’t wait to see you in 2019 for one more semester of courses and our 16 week doctoral specialty internships! Have a great summer and stay cool GU!