Ninety-five Doctor of Physical Therapy students received their new crisp white coats in a ceremony at the Duke Chapel today.
The Class of 2024 White Coat Ceremony marked a milestone for the students who have finished the didactic portion of the program and set out to begin a year of clinical experiences before graduating next May.
Watch the archived ceremony.
Featured speaker Michael Schmidt, PT, DPT, MHA, urged the class to build their skills and knowledge, commit to listening carefully to their patients, and offer them hope and encouragement.
“I had the best clinical instructors that anyone could ask for, but the best teachers I had were my patients,” Dr. Schmidt said, sharing a story about Ernest, a 96-year-old man who had fallen off a ladder and fractured his hip.
Ernest was among the first patients that he evaluated early in his inpatient clinical assignment.
“When Ernest and I met, he was reluctant to work with a kid, such as myself…. Ernest was refusing to work with therapy and just wanted to go home,” said Dr. Schmidt, adding that he just spent time with him and asked him about his life and career as a highly skilled carpenter.
“We work in a healthcare system that is filled with distractions. Distractions that cause a lack of connection and true understanding of our patient’s concerns,” he said. “Thoughtful listening is powerful. We may know the terminology, treatments, and maneuvers, but listening to and connecting with our patients often fosters true healing.”
Dr. Schmidt said that by listening, clinicians earn their patients’ respect and affirm that they are part of the decision-making process in their treatment journey. By offering Ernest encouragement, Schmidt learned about his favorite and most impactful projects.
“Ernest was one of the craftsmen who helped to build the woodwork that you see throughout the chapel,” he told the class members, family members, and other guests. “Even this podium.”
Passionate about teaching and mentoring future physical therapy leaders, Dr. Schmidt is the director of ambulatory rehabilitation for the Duke University Health System and residency and fellowship programming for Duke Health. He also teaches in the DPT program. He graduated from the DPT program in 2012 and completed the Duke Orthopaedic Residency and Manual Physical Therapy Fellowship programs in 2013 and 2014, respectively. He earned a master’s degree in healthcare administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2021.