WesternU Celebrates COMP-Northwest Commencement and Lebanon Community

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The COMP-Northwest Commencement ceremony, held June 5, 2015 on COMP-Northwest’s Lebanon, Oregon campus, featured 100 graduates receiving their Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree.

Graduates take the Osteopathic Oath during WesternU COMP-Northwest's inaugural Commencement Exercise Friday, June 5, 2015 in Lebanon, Oregon. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

The first Commencement ceremony for Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest celebrated not only the accomplishments of the charter class, but the dedication of the entire community who helped make this day possible.

The ceremony, held June 5, 2015 on COMP-Northwest’s Lebanon, Oregon campus, featured 100 graduates receiving their Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. The event was open to the community.

“Many in this audience worked for decades towards this day, dedicating their careers to medical education,” said COMP Dean Paula M. Crone, DO ’92. “Many more in this audience embraced COMP-Northwest and what we stand for, turning out repeatedly and at unexpected times to push us forward and help ensure our students’ success.

“On behalf of WesternU, I want to thank our community of Lebanon for opening up your hearts and embracing COMP-Northwest and your medical students,” she added. “Yes, Lebanon, you have a medical school and today you graduate your first 100 students.”

COMP-Northwest officially opened its inaugural academic year in July 2011, the first medical school to be built in Oregon in more than a century and one of just two medical colleges in the state. By August 2014, the campus had reached full student enrollment of more than 400, with more than 60 faculty and staff.

WesternU Founding President Philip Pumerantz, PhD, presided over his first and last COMP-Northwest Commencement ceremony. He founded the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in Pomona, California in 1977 and he will retire on Sept. 8, 2015. At the end of the ceremony, Dr. Pumerantz had conferred degrees to 12,435 graduates in his illustrious tenure at WesternU.

Two of COMP-Northwest’s biggest supporters took the stage as keynote speakers. Jeff Heatherington, LHD (Hon.) is founder, president and CEO of FamilyCare Health Plans, Oregon’s oldest Medicaid managed care plan. His history with COMP dates to its founding in 1977. While serving as director of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons of Oregon, Heatherington helped bring together WesternU and Samaritan Health Services to build COMP-Northwest.

Heatherington offered graduates some advice on becoming a good doctor and good person. Studies have shown that a physician usually interrupts a patient within 18 seconds of walking through the door, so he encouraged graduates to listen to their patients.

“One of the things to keep in mind about your patients is you rarely know very much about them, and you won’t know anything about them unless you listen very carefully,” Heatherington said. “The silence that’s in the room is not for you to fill, it’s for them to finally open up and talk about what they’re afraid of. Your patients really don’t care about what you know until they know how much you care about them.”

These graduates have received a tremendous gift – an osteopathic education, Heatherington said. He urged them to be proud of that education and to be a proud DO.

“As a physician, you will be looked on by society as a person who has more privileges than others,” he said. “Be generous in your spirit, be generous in your caring for your patients and be generous with whatever material things you have. The profession needs you be viewed as not only a good doctor but as a generous spirit.”

Larry Mullins, DHA, FACHE, LHD (Hon.) is president and CEO of Samaritan Health Services Inc., an integrated health care system of hospitals, physicians, clinics, health plans and other health operations in Oregon.

Mullins helped establish the vision responsible for the success of WesternU COMP-Northwest. Through Samaritan Health Services, he built the medical school through a partnership with WesternU, on an area called the Samaritan Health Sciences Campus.

Mullins reflected on the hard work and sacrifice of those who came before, including the original pioneers who settled the area in 1847. After them came laborers, farmers, educators, loggers and many others who made their mark on this area.

“There are many others who helped bring us here today at COMP-Northwest, and much sacrifice has been made by many to create the opportunity you now have to serve others,” Mullins said. “Many have given much to make today possible, not only for you and your families but for the generations of families who you will have the privilege to care for. We know you will honor that as you continue your training in your careers.

“I will close by saying after all your hard work and sacrifice, your career and lifelong learning continues and you have a wonderful opportunity to do unto others as others have done to you, to make your mark and to give forward,” he added. “We know you will.”

The students took a leap of faith in coming to a new campus in a small Oregon town. But some were convinced from the moment they arrived.

“When I walked in the doors and was welcomed by Dean Crone and Dr. (Paul) Aversano, it just felt like family,” said COMP-Northwest graduate Jennifer Foti, DO ’15. “It felt like coming home. It’s a feeling that never left.”

Foti will enter an emergency medicine residency at Naval Medical Center San Diego.

“My time here has been incredible. The people, the staff, the faculty, fellow students, make COMP-Northwest irreplaceable,” she said. “So much love and support runs through this place. I can’t imagine going to any other medical school. I know I will always have a place here. That's amazing. I look forward to coming back here.”

Foti will also miss the community that embraced her and her classmates.

“The Lebanon community opened their arms and took us in with a full embrace,” Foti said. “They have always been here to support us. I know that bond between the community and students will forever be there. That's what makes this place special.”

Jan and Rob Fazio traveled from St. Petersburg, Florida to celebrate their daughter, Elise Fazio, DO ’15.

“She loves this area of the country, and she definitely wanted a DO school,” Jan said. “She got to know a lot of the faculty well, and got a lot of support from them. There were a lot of ups and downs during the four years, and they were there for her.”

WesternU filled this first class with special, hand-picked young men and women, Crone said. They were impressive to start with and have only continued to impress.

“You were selected to be pioneers, to be trailblazers, and you never failed in that spirit. You have taken an oath. In exchange, you are accorded a very special place in society. Use it to be healers. Use it to be leaders in your communities and champions of your patients,” she said. “Know that you will always hold a very special place in Paul’s and my heart and the hearts of all your COMP-Northwest and WesternU family. You are our ‘firstborn.’ Congratulations graduates. Congratulations doctors.”

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