Western University of Health Sciences has received a $5.1 million commitment for three of the University’s colleges, creation of an endowed lectureship honoring the University’s founding president, and naming rights to a floor of the school’s new Health Education Center.

The gift from Drs. Daljit and Elaine Sarkaria of Orange, one of the largest donor commitments made to WesternU in its 31-year history, comes in the midst of a $100-million expansion of the University. The expansion includes the Health Education Center, a Patient Care Center, a Veterinary Instructional Pathology Center, new headquarters for the Center for Disability Issues in the Health Professions, the recently opened Banfield Veterinary Clinical Center, and a four-story parking garage.

The Sarkarias’ $5.1 million gift has three parts:

  • $3 million to provide $1 million apiece to the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Dental Medicine.
  • $2 million to secure the naming rights for the Research Center to be located on the fourth floor of the new Health Education Center.
  • $100,000 to create the Dr. Philip Pumerantz Distinguished Lectureship in Inter-professional Education. Dr. Pumerantz is founder and president of Western University of Health Sciences.

"This impressive commitment to WesternU by the Drs. Sarkaria reaffirms their belief that education is the key to improving the human condition, and that the work being done at WesternU – training tomorrow’s health-care professionals – is powerful and meaningful," said Dr. Philip Pumerantz, president of WesternU. "When I think of all that will be made possible by such a commitment, I am excited and pleased for our students and staff, and for the public that will be served by our graduates."

"When WesternU embarked on its journey to become a comprehensive graduate academic health science center with the simultaneous addition of three new colleges in dentistry, optometry and podiatry, our campus community knew that it would be an ambitious, yet unique and pioneering venture," said Benjamin Cohen, DO, Provost and Chief Operating Officer of WesternU.

"The support of visionary philanthropists like the Sarkarias will breathe life into WesternU’s new dental college, it will propel our osteopathic medicine and veterinary medicine colleges into new heights of academic excellence, it will provide much needed support for enhancement of WesternU’s research endeavors, and finally, it will create a lectureship series that will balance WesternU’s founding principles of humanism, caring, and compassion with modern innovations in graduate health science instruction," Dr. Cohen said. "The Sarkarias’ gift is truly an investment in the University’s exciting future."

Deans of the colleges that will receive a portion of the Sarkarias’ gift also were appreciative of the couple’s philanthropy and what the funds will mean to University programs.

"After 30 years in the United States Navy, I became very familiar with the time-tested teaching method of ‘see one,’ ‘do one,’ ‘teach one,’" said Clinton Adams, DO, MPA, FAAFP, FACHE, dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, which will use its portion of the donation to establish the Sarkaria Human Simulation Center, where COMP students will train on medical simulators. "Unfortunately, those were real people, patients, who believed in helping educate future doctors."

"But now we are able to ‘see one,’ ‘do one,’ ‘teach one’ on highly sophisticated, technologically amazing simulated patients," Dr. Adams continued. "The student doctor breaks that first bead of perspiration and sense of anxiety on a computer-simulated model. The intensity of the experience is surprisingly similar to real life because the simulator actually talks, breathes and mimics all physiologic responses of a human being."

"This is real – not another check in the box of a medical school," Dr. Adams said. "This gift continues to assure our graduates will not be lured to the ‘high-tech’ world of modern medicine and ignore the importance of ‘high touch.’"

"One of the challenges in starting a new professional education program is attracting faculty who are also willing to embrace the opportunity to build a program from the ground up," said James Koelbl, DDS, MS, MJ, founding dean of the College of Dental Medicine. "The Drs. Daljit and Elaine Sarkaria Professorship in Dental Medicine will allow us to attract and support an additional high-quality faculty member to further our goal of providing competent, caring health care professionals for the future."

In keeping with their deeply held tenets of bettering human life through education, the Sarkarias, longtime acquaintances of WesternU board member Dr. Ethan Allen, wish to encourage and foster exemplary medical research, education and quality patient care through the endowed fund within WesternU for the annual lectureship. The goal is to bring a speaker of national prominence to WesternU to promote advances in scientific knowledge and understanding, and to honor Dr. Pumerantz, who has dedicated his professional life to the education of health care professionals in a compassionate, caring and interdisciplinary environment.

The Dr. Philip Pumerantz Distinguished Lectureship will start in 2009, with the invitation to a renowned person for a keynote address. This individual will provide a vital motivational lecture.

"I am humbled by the establishment of the endowed lectureship," Dr, Pumerantz said. "I will do my utmost to ensure that the Sarkarias’ wish that it be used to advance scientific knowledge and understanding is fulfilled."

The Sarkarias previously gave $1.2 million to WesternU for an endowed research position in the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific to study the molecular mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease. They also have funded research on Alzheimer’s disease at WesternU.

Upon earning his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1948 and an M.D. from New York State University at Buffalo in 1957, Dr. Sarkaria entered residency training at UCLA Medical School, which prepared him for a 22-year tenure with La Mirada Hospital as a pathologist, supervising clinical laboratories and diagnosing cancer cells in the blood and tissue of his patients.

While at La Mirada Hospital, Dr. Sarkaria formed a friendship with fellow physician Ethan Allen, DO, a founding director of Western University and its longest-serving active board member, and learned that Allen’s osteopathic medicine training (through which the patient, not the disease, is the center of care) aligned with his own holistic approach to health care.