Langston University students at the University Center of Southern Oklahoma had another first on Thursday night when they were recognized in a white coat ceremony, the budding program’s first in Ardmore.
Fourteen students walked the stage at Emmanual Baptist Church in Ardmore to receive white coats, symbolizing their transition from classroom learning to the clinicals they’ll complete at Mercy Ardmore. UCSO Site Director Anna Duran said the ceremony is special for many reasons.
“Not every nursing school does a white coat ceremony,” Duran said. “It’s an honor to have the grant to do the ceremony, and it’s to showcase the students and outlines the expectations we have for them.”
During the presentation, instructor Suzie Shalver explained the history of the ceremony, detailing how it was extended to prestigious nursing schools in 2014.
 “The profession of nursing was recognized because of the substantial contributions we’ve made through research and nursing education, and dedication to the
communities and populations that we serve,” Shalver said. “It has since been established at nursing schools throughout the country.”
Shalver said the ceremony may be somewhat different from institution to institution, but it always represents the students’ acceptance of the moral and professional demands of their field and commitment to their patients.
“These nursing students, I can say without a doubt, are committed to what they have chosen to do as nurses,” Shalver said. “It is our hope that they will be committed to be lifelong learners in not only learning, but in application of knowledge in their various health care settings.”
Tammy Franklin, coordinator of nursing excellence at Mercy Ardmore, addressed the students with encouraging words and referenced a favorite film of hers, Somewhere Tomorrow, a 1984 film about a teenager dealing with the death of her father.
“Without death, man would not strive to leave his mark upon the earth,” she said. “As nurses, we have the opportunity to leave an everlasting mark on others.”
Renita Dotson, lead school nurse for Ardmore City Schools, served as the event’s keynote speaker. Over her 30-year career, she’s been a nurse in orthopedics, geriatrics, pediatrics, home health care and surgical nursing. She said she always felt nursing was her calling, because she experienced tragedy firsthand from a young age.
“It gave me that desire to serve others, but I also feel that the spirit of God has led me, and he has given me that calling,” Dotson said.
Dotson referenced groundbreaking historical figures in the field of nursing like Mary Mahoney, Florence Nightingale and Rebecca Crumpler, calling for the students to be a voice and advocate for their patients, emphasizing their transition from the classroom to clinical learning.
“You will stand on the shoulders of many great ones before you,” Dotson said. “They paved the way, they laid the foundation for each of you to walk forward. Here we have the opportunity to serve, to transform people’s lives, to make a significant difference in the lives of your patients.”
During the ceremony, Langston School of Nursing and Health Professions Teressa Hunter thanked Langston administrators involved with the partnership for their work from the beginning. She also thanked Mary Johnson, an Ardmore Middle School teacher and Langston alumnus who first broached the idea of Langston taking the spot, along with the City of Ardmore, Ardmore Institute of Health, UCSO and their board. In addition, she thanked the Westheimer, McMcrory, Noble, and Southern Oklahoma Memorial foundations, along with the church staff and Pastor Donny Custar.
After the ceremony, families gathered around the stage to take pictures of the students, all proudly wearing their white coats.