Twenty years ago this month I went to the Portland airport with two suitcases and a return ticket for Christmas. I was flying 3,000 miles east to enroll at a college I had never seen.

I knew I wanted to study U.S. history, and I figured there was no place better to do that than in Williamsburg, our nation’s colonial capital, which is also next to Jamestown and Yorktown. Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, Tyler and Marshall all studied there, and I wanted to as well.

But it was daunting going so far from family and friends, heading toward an unknown place where I did not know anyone.

The same can be said of many medical students.

For example, COMP-Northwest has multiple students from Montana.

I think that is remarkable, because if you grow up and go to college there, and want to become a doctor, there is a good chance you invested thousands of hours of studying and preparation into your pre-med education, and all the while you never actually saw a medical school, because there isn’t one in your state, or any of the states bordering you!

The leap of faith I took to Virginia, and some of my classmates took to medical school, worked out well.

But leaps are always a bit nerve-wracking.

Conversely, it is great that the residents of Lebanon and surrounding communities have a medical school in your own backyard, which offers various opportunities.

There are multiple ways you may interact with COMP-Northwest.

First is perhaps the most widely known.

Our school works with local schools, from kindergarten through high school, bringing area students onto our campus to interact with physicians, medical students, and gain hands-on experience about the health care field.

We understand not everyone will become a physician, but we hope to help excite students about learning and plant seeds in their minds about the various opportunities available to them in the future.

Second is pre-med nights held monthly. College students from LBCC, OSU, U of O, Western Oregon and other colleges come to COMP-Northwest to learn about the good, bad and ugly of the application process, medical school, and life as a physician. Many are pre-med students, some are just curious.

To that end, interested high school students are invited as well. We feed them dinner while doctors, professors and admissions counselors give presentations and field Q&A sessions.

We have been doing these consistently, even before our building was complete, and turnout has been strong, averaging 40-50 students per event.

Third are our campus tours. If you contact us with a specific event, we will work to accommodate you.

For example high school class reunions have made a tour of COMP-Northwest a part of their weekend.

Additionally, we have regular tours on Tuesday and Friday afternoons.

Prospective students fly in from around the country to get a feel for the school.

And while the tours are for them, they are also for you.

Our admissions office was very excited when two 2013 Sweet Home High School graduates recently called and asked for a tour and to speak with an admissions counselor about what they would need to do during college (pre-med) to be able to potentially come to medical school here in the future.

We would appreciate the opportunity to “pull back the curtain” for you and let you see everything (except the cadavers) firsthand.

That includes us medical students, who spend much of our time in little, windowed study rooms.

Many people on a tour have watched me much like I watch a monkey in a cage at the zoo. In fact one classmate wrote “please feed the medical student” on her window.

If you are interested in joining a Tuesday or Friday campus tour, or scheduling another tour event, you may call Assistant Director of Admissions Jeannie Davis at 541-259-0214, or Public Relations Officer Luke Rauch at 541-259-0213.

Afterward, you can tell your friends you saw a doctor and didn’t get a bill.

And if you happen to see me when you walk past, I like peanuts.

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