For Immediate Release         September 11, 2009  


1st Annual PA Convocation White Coat Ceremony

LaTonya Hitchcock (on the left), Elda Pineda and LaToya Abernathy (on the right).

PA 2009 and 2010 classmates taking the Physician Assistant Oath

LaTonya Hitchcock was determined not to allow her dream to be deferred.  She wanted to see it, touch it and, on this occasion, even wear it.

Many of her hopes were captured one recent Friday morning when she joined more than 80 other students in Charles Drew University’s first “Convocation White Coat Ceremony” for the physician assistant program.

After the ceremony, Hitchcock, a native of Chicago, and some of her friends talked about the significance of the moment and the journey to Charles Drew to become a physician assistant graduates in the class of 2009.

“I had heard about the school and was attracted by what it stood for,” she said. “So I packed up my car and moved from Chicago to Los Angeles.”

Her drive from Chicago across the flat Midwest terrain was fueled, in part, by the dream of following the Charles Drew mission to serve the underserved. There was something magical about the trip—seeing the “amazing Grand Canyon,” experiencing a welcoming feeling at the sight of the mountains of the West. But there was something even more compelling about a career helping those less fortunate.

In Los Angeles, she embarked on her real journey—Charles Drew’s two-year program to become a physician assistant, the oldest PA program in California.

Physician Assistants (PA’s) are formerly trained medical professionals who provide diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive health care services under the supervision of licensed physicians.

“They work as members of the health care team,” said Dr. Chris Reid, Associate Dean in the College of Science and Health.  “They take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret lab tests and x-rays, making diagnoses, prescribe medications and manage life-threatening emergencies.”

At Charles Drew, Hitchcock faced a busy classroom schedule under a core curriculum that included Pathophysiology, adult medicine, physical diagnosis, medical communications, emergency medicine and much more.

And she bonded with her classmates. LaToya Abernathy from Compton and Elda Pineda from Southwest Los Angeles also came to Charles Drew seeking to be part of the mission of serving the underserved. They too were firsts in their immediate families to enter careers in medicine profession. And as trailblazers, they were well aware of their positions as role models for others to follow.

 “I grew up in here,” Abernathy said. “This is my backyard. I know the tremendous needs that are right here. That’s what motivated me to come to this school.”

 “This is a great opportunity to help people,” Pineda said. “We also have an obligation to help ourselves.”

At Charles Drew University, the work was hard, the time moved quickly and before they knew it, they were participating in the “White Coat Ceremony” with members of the 2009 and 2010 graduating classes.

“They are transitioning from students to clinicians,” said Rischell Turner, Interim Director of the Physcian Assistant Program. “We believe in them and they will eventually be certified and come back and live the Drew mission.”

At the ceremony, the auditorium seats were filled with family members and friends who watched and took pictures as the members of the Class of 2009 and 2010 adorned their white coats and recited the Physician Assistant Oath:

Physician Assistant Oath

I pledge to perform the following duties with honesty and dedication:

I hold as my primary responsibility the health, safety, welfare and dignity of all human beings.

I will uphold the tenets of patient autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence and justice.

I will recognize and promote the value of diversity.

I will treat equally all persons who seek my care.

I will hold in confidence the information shared in the course of practicing medicine.

I will assess my personal capabilities and limitations, striving always to improve my medical practice.

I will actively seek to expand my knowledge and skills, keeping abreast of advances in medicine.

I will work with other members of the health care team to provide compassionate and effective care of patients.

I will use my knowledge and experience to contribute to an improved community.

I will respect my professional relationship with the physician.

I will share and expand knowledge within the profession.

These duties are pledged with sincerity and upon my honor.


  For more information, please contact:
John L. Mitchell
Media Advisor at
Charles Drew University of Medicine & Science
Telephone: (323) 563-4981 or cell (323) 681-4225

1731 East 120th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90059
p 323 563 4987  f 323 563 5987

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