Incoming Ph.D. student Aya Ali receives her lab coat from Dr. Joey Granger at the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences' White Coat Ceremony.
Aya Ali, an incoming Ph.D. student, receives her lab coat from Dr. Joey Granger, SGSHS dean, during the school's white coat ceremony.
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Lab coats symbolize pride, professionalism in SGSHS

Published on Monday, August 19, 2019

By: Karen Bascom

Just as physicians are often recognized by their white jackets, scientists also have their own marker: the lab coat.

The School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences held its first White-Coat Ceremony Thursday, August 15 in the Norman C. Nelson Student Union at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The SGSHS started giving white laboratory coats to incoming Ph.D. students in 2016, but this is the first year they held a formal ceremony. The coats, which have the student’s names and the school’s patch on them, serve purposes, said Dr. Joey Granger, SGSHS dean.

“We wanted to start holding this ceremony in order to honor our incoming students,” Granger said. “The white coats symbolize both pride in our school and promote professionalism as students and future biomedical researchers.”

At the ceremony, Granger congratulated the new students and encouraged them to use the resources that the Dean’s office, their program directors and Graduate Student Body officers offer as they transition into this new phase of professional training.

Twenty-one incoming Ph.D. students received their coats. They represent all eight SGSHS doctoral programs, seven countries and nine states.

Ashley Griffin of Greenwood receives her lab coat from Dr. Joey Granger at School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences' first White Coat Ceremony.
Ashley Griffin of Greenwood receives her lab coat from Granger.

Ashley Griffin, an incoming Ph.D. student from Greenwood, said she first became interested in studying neuroscience while watching and caring for her grandparents who experienced dementia.

“There’s so much we know about the brain, but there’s also so much we don’t know,” Griffin said. “I’m a curious person, and I want to find answers to these questions.”

While an undergraduate at Delta State University, she participated in summer research at UMMC through INBRE, short for IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence, working with Dr. Kedra Wallace, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the School of Medicine.

Griffin said after just a couple of weeks in the lab, “I knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The experience really solidified my interest in neuroscience.”

Dr. Michael Ryan, graduate school associate dean for student affairs, ran a slide show during the ceremony to introduce the students to each other. He said he was glad to see that the most common interests among the incoming students were reading and traveling, which will serve them well in the SGSHS.


“The grad school pays for you to go to scientific meetings, and you will be doing a lot of reading here,” Ryan said.

The presentation served another purpose: to show students areas where they can learn from each other outside of the classroom and laboratory.

“We have a strong community at UMMC and want you to take advantage of it, because your classmates here will become your colleagues for the rest of your career,” said

The welcome dinner also included 107 M.S. students: 101 in the M.S. in biomedical sciences and six in the M.S. in clinical investigation tracks. Biomedical sciences graduates make up about a third of the current School of Dentistry classes and about 10 percent of the School of Medicine classes at UMMC.

However, Ryan said, the program is also great preparation for the SGSHS’s doctoral degree programs.

“If you want to discover new things and really impact the biomedical field through research, our Ph.D. programs are a place that you can do that,” he said.

Dr. Joey Granger, back row, seventh from left, poses with new Ph.D. students who received their coats during the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences' 2019 White Coat Ceremony. Students participating in the ceremony include, front row from left, Zandra Burkham, Cindy Nguyen, Anna Scasny, Mary Carr, Christian Yu, Dr. Elliott Varney, Aya Ali and Elizabeth Gordineer, and back row from left, Xing Fang, Lohitha Kalluri, Alexandra Huffman, Casey Raborn, Shannon Curran, Bridget Konadu, Granger, Kathryn Veazey, Nathan Campbell, Loc Pham, Ashley Griffin, Jake Valeri and Ubong Ekperipke.