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COMP-NW celebrates the Class of 2020

COMP-NW celebrates the Class of 2020

A semester which was spent largely in online learning was punctuated with an online commencement ceremony on Friday.

Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest (COMP-NW) celebrated its sixth commencement with a virtual online gathering. The ceremony was highlighted by speeches by President Daniel R. Wilson, Dean Paula Crone and board member Gene Barduson, who gave the keynote address.

Before the ceremony’s official start, there was the opportunity to watch short video messages from members of this graduating class. These greetings were filled with thankfulness to family members, spouses, friends, and members of the Lebanon community who supported them over the past four years.

Austin Layton thanked his parents and grandparents for the many sacrifices they made which allowed him to enter and then complete medical school.

“This day, this graduation is bittersweet that I can’t be with those people to acknowledge the role they played, not only these last four years but in the years preceding that,” Layton said.

When the ceremony began, Crone also noted the unusual nature of this year’s commencement, made necessary by the social distancing rules put in place due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Today marks a very special day and represents a tremendous milestone for our graduates. Even though this is not how we were planning to celebrate it, and we miss not being able to be with you in person, we are still grateful that we had the opportunity to be part of your educational journey. We are very proud of you today,” Crone said.

Wilson asked the members of the graduating class to step back from the current situation and remember when they first understood that their lives would be devoted to medicine.

“This world crisis forces us to adapt to what I call a crack in time. Our future is not yet clear, but to make better sense of all this, graduates, please I ask each of you to think back to the very first moment you knew you were destined to be a health professional,” Wilson said. “You knew you were destined to be a healer, you were drawn to it, you felt a calling.”

Barduson was asked to give the main address both because of his years spent on the board and his experience as one of the pioneers in the field of health information systems. In addition to serving on the Western University of Health Sciences board, he is also a member of the Board of Trustees at Scripps Health, an integrated delivery network in Southern California.

He recalled an experience 15 years ago when he was invited to attend a medical student memorial for those who had donated their bodies for the advancement of medicine and medical education. He was awestruck by the solemnity of the event.

“There on stage was a ceremony I will never forget,” Barduson said. “Something happened to me that day. I learned what humanism is. I witnessed what it meant to this group of men and women working so hard to master the skills to be a physician. They were also evidencing the compassion of what it is to be a humanistic physician. I learned that day what a special place Western University is.”

Barduson said this generation of physicians faces the task of re-imagining the role of doctors in our society and he looks forward to seeing them live up to this challenge.

“Every commencement speaker is supposed to say something to inspire the graduates. The more I thought about that, the more it became obvious to me that’s backwards. It is you that are the inspiration. It is you who inspire us each and every day. It is your passion, your brilliance, your skill, your creativity and compassion that represent our future,” Barduson said. “It’s you who will take the promise of technology and turn it into personalized medicine. It is you who will transform a health system that rewards itself by the number of procedures it performs, to a system that rewards itself by the health and wellness of the community it serves.”

As part of the ceremony, the newly minted doctors took part in the traditional hooding ceremony and took the Osteopathic Oath.

There were 106 members of this class, bringing the total number of graduates from the Lebanon medical school campus to 607.

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