On Saturday, July 30, the concert hall at Liberty University’s Center for Music and the Worship Arts was packed with family, friends, and special guests of incoming Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) students. . Recognizing the LUCOM Class of 2026, LUCOM’s ninth class, the annual White Coat Ceremony was held with over 160 new students receiving the symbolic White Coat. The event took place after a week-long orientation for new students and marked the first rite of passage in medical education.
Randy G. Litman, DO, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and GME, offered a welcome note to those in attendance and watching the webcast.
“As the Class of 2026 don their white coats today, they accept the importance of humanism in health care and embark on a personal and professional journey,” Litman said. “As the Class of 2026 are sworn in today, they recognize the many responsibilities that come with their chosen life’s work. On behalf of the Dean, Dr. Joseph Johnson, and the faculty of Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine, I welcomes Lynchburg, Virginia and the osteopathic medical profession.
In keeping with tradition, a prayer of thanks and protection was then offered to new medical students by Donald R. Raleigh, EdD, Senior Associate Dean for University Operations.
“We thank you for each of the medical students who are here with us today and ask for your blessings upon them,” Raleigh said. “Help them accustom themselves to your will, grant them the wisdom to provide knowledge, compassion and guidance as Champions for Christ and that you would be blessed through it all. I ask for your continued protection and blessings on LUCOM and Liberty University. Guide us to do your will.
LUCOM Dean Joseph R. Johnson, DO, FACOOG (Dist), then addressed the students by thanking their families before emphasizing the importance of the ceremony.
“This white coat ceremony — our annual tradition — not only recognizes a new class of osteopathic medical students, but also offers a reflection on those who have supported and sacrificed their loved ones for this new chapter,” Johnson said. “Class of 2026, you didn’t get here alone. Your mom and dad — your family — were the first ‘doctors’ in your life. It was a team effort to get you here and will continue to be a team effort. collective to accompany you.
“Students, you have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into,” Johnson added. “You pushed that rock up the hill while working on that undergraduate or master’s degree. You were on top of the mountain and today you are ready to undertake the monumental task of pushing that rock back. Deuteronomy 31: 6 tells us, ‘Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or dismayed because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.'”
“Class of 2026, Liberty’s newest class of medical students, this white coat ceremony is just the beginning of a life-changing journey, adventure, challenge, and endeavor that you will come out the other side changed forever.In the months to come, we promise to challenge you, to motivate you, to train you, to encourage you, to teach you, to encourage you, to invest you and to love you — yes, to love you all,” Johnson continued. “For a moment, think about the word ‘doctor’, for Christ is our great physician and our ultimate example. take this very seriously in osteopathic medicine.
Using a quote from the founder of osteopathy, Andrew Taylor Still, DO, MD, uttered in 1910 – Johnson also said, “Is God an architect? If so, why not be governed by that architect’s plan, specification, construction, and engineering in our work as healers? When we comply and work according to the laws and specifications of this architect, we obtain the required results. It is the cornerstone on which osteopathy is based.
“Here at Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine, we are typically Christians,” Johnson added. “We will challenge you in medicine, but we will also challenge you in your walk with Christ. You will understand the design of the human body and creation and meet the creator in your daily walks and learnings. Liberty University’s motto is “Forming Champions for Christ.” In the same way, we seek to “train doctors for Christ”. We follow Jesus Christ as our model for He is the Great Physician – the One who is a Healer of physical persons and a Healer of souls now and forever and ever.
“Before too long, that white coat will feel familiar – like a part of you – as you gain confidence and experience…and you’ll know you were born for it…and you’ll know you’re here for ‘a while’. such as this,” Johnson concluded.
After Dr. Johnson’s remarks, each new osteopathic medicine student walked through the stage, where a LUCOM faculty member helped put on their new white coat. Students then received four pins: the academic seal of Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Liberty University monogram, a token provided by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, and a pin from the Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association (VOMA), as a small gift to welcome each doctoral student to VOMA. LUCOM once again had the privilege of welcoming Kristen Newton, Executive Assistant Director of VOMA, to distribute the fourth pin.
Continuing the new tradition of inviting practicing and retired healthcare professionals with Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) or Doctor of Medicine (MD) degrees, 11 students walked across the stage alongside an immediate member of their family who wore them as a symbolic moment in their family’s history.
Raena M. Pettitt, DO, CHSE, Associate Professor of Family Medicine at LUCOM, led the osteopathic oath, with each newly sworn medical student standing together and speaking in unison to publicly declare their recognition and responsibility within the medicine.
The LUCOM class of 2026 consists of 162 students – 157 representing 28 states, as well as five international students. The top five states are Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New Jersey. Fifteen students graduated from Liberty University before beginning their medical training in osteopathy.
Instituted by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993, a white coat ceremony is performed at nearly every medical school in the United States, as well as 19 other countries. As an international non-profit organization, the foundation works with doctors in training and practice, as well as other members of the health care community, to instill a culture of respect, dignity and compassion for patients and practitioners.