First year students at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest received their white coats, symbolic of their commitment to medicine, on Aug. 4.
During the ceremony, which included the convocation and official start of the academic year, many offered advice and words of encouragement for the future doctors.
“In my view, you are facing two challenges,” said Warren Lawless, chair of the board for Western University of Health Sciences. “The first is you will undoubtedly be surprised by the breadth of the material you will be presented with in the next four years.”
The second challenge will be the uncharted waters of health care reform, he said.
“I don’t think anyone here will know what it will look like in 2016,” Lawless said. “Keep informed, concentrate on giving humanistic care.”
Gary Gugelchuk, Ph.D, provost and chief operating officer of Western U, encouraged the students.
“As future health care graduates, as tomorrow’s leaders, you will have the skills to provide collaborative care and have the skills to fix our shattered health care system,” he said. “It’s time for you to start blazing your own trails.”
COMP-Northwest Executive Dean Paula Crone, D.O., said the support, sacrifice, love and care of parents and families helped the students get to medical school.
“Being a part of COMP-Northwest means never forgetting your community,” Crone said.
That includes Lebanon, other students, faculty, the Willamette Valley, Western U, other physicians, and patients, she said.
The class of 107 was carefully selected out of 2,200 applicants, Crone said, and includes 67 students from the Northwest, 49 from small towns. One-third are married with children, 16 already hold a post-graduate degree of some kind, and nine are military veterans.
“Your hobbies are indicative of a Northwest lifestyle,” Crone said.
Four students describe beer brewing as a hobby.
“I know who you are,” Crone said, as the audience laughed.
“Over the next four years, you will receive a world-class education,” she said. “It will be as difficult as it is rewarding.”
She told them to take their medical education
and responsibility as doctors very seriously.
“Your future patients will trust you for no other reason than you have ‘doctor’ in front of your name,” Crone said. “They trust us with their deepest secrets, with their health, and with their lives. This is a responsibility that needs to be held absolutely sacred. I expect much from you, but no less than your future patients will expect from you.”
Osteopathic medicine has a long history in the Northwest, Crone said.
“This is an institution filled with history and pride,” she said. “We intend to be known as the best medical school in the world, and why not. Our team is that good, and my expectations for you are that real.”
Keynote speaker Paul Aversano, D.O., spoke a little about what students could expect from their medical education.
“Students will be immersed in the first right of passage: anatomy,” he said. “They will get clinical application right there with that donor-patient. Nowhere in the world was this being done. Why not? It’s happening right here in Lebanon, Oregon. It’s leading the way. This is the way anatomy will be taught in the future.”
Through the innovative curriculum and award-winning students, Lebanon will find itself in the center of it all, Aversano said.
Three students received awards in an international competition in Grenada, for research projects.
When the students were introduced from Western University of Health Sciences, COMP-Northwest, Lebanon, Oregon, Aversano said people in the audience were looking around wondering where that is.
“In case you haven’t noticed something, Lebanon, you got yourself a medical school.”
He spoke of the importance of being involved in the community, and keeping current.
“We laugh at blood letting, leeches, and closing the windows,” Aversano said. “They will laugh at us one day, too.”
But doctors will never be replaced by computers, he said.
“Humans demand to be touched, cared for,” Aversano said. “You will learn the ability to think, and touch and feel, even without the latest technology. People will know you learned your craft in Lebanon, Oregon.”
President Philip Pumerantz, Ph.D., lauded the support of the medical community, the people of Lebanon and the staff and faculty at COMP-Northwest.
“With an entire state’s medical community behind you, and a local community that welcomes and supports you, my hat’s off to you.”