Western University of Health Sciences’ College of Health Sciences-Northwest celebrated its students with white coat ceremonies, and its new home in Lebanon, Oregon, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house.
CHS-Northwest’s inaugural Doctor of Physical Therapy Class of 2024 kicked off the first white coat ceremony on Saturday, July 9, 2022. COVID-19 restrictions prevented an in-person ceremony when they started in July 2021, so the students appreciated this opportunity.
“It’s really nice to be able to come out and have my family here with me,” said DPT Class of 2024 student Dalma Torres. She said she looks forward to mentoring the incoming DPT students and paving the way for them. Her advice to them would be to find a hobby or activity that keeps them sane.
“For me, personally, talking to my family every night really helped, especially living so far away,” said Torres, who is from Southern California. “It’s nice to have something that keeps me connected to them.”
CHS-Northwest recognized and celebrated the Class of 2024’s successful completion of their first year of their professional journey.
“We applaud you because you have earned these white coats that you are going to don today,” said CHS-Northwest Founding Dean Dee Schilling, PT, PhD, FNAP. “You have shown your commitment to your educational journey, especially as an inaugural class. That makes you forever special.”
The class interviewed virtually, and many had not visited Oregon before becoming a student.
“You weren’t even sure how we were going to deliver your curriculum. But you believed in our vision, our mission, and in our commitment to you. You remained steadfast in your calling and you trusted all of us to be part of your professional journey. You are truly leaders. You are shaping the future of CHS-Northwest and your profession.”
CHS-Northwest Associate Chair and Director of Clinical Education Rick Daigle, PT, DPT, told students to wear their white coats as a badge of pride.
“The white coat symbolizes professionalism, caring, and your dedication to earn trust from your patients. It’s a powerful symbol of compassion and honor. Wear it well,” he said. “You are entering Western University of Health Sciences at a truly exciting time. You will have the opportunity to participate in didactic and clinical activities with other students of other professions at WesternU…As the white coat is placed on your shoulders, remember you are entering into the very special communities of the healing arts and education. In the future, you will be sought after for your knowledge, skill and your caring. The coat carries with it the responsibilities to be excellent in science, compassionate in caregiving, and knowledgeable and educated.”
The second white coat ceremony on July 9 celebrated the incoming DPT Class of 2025. First-year DPT student Jose Pepe Hernandez said he chose CHS-Northwest because of the new campus and new program. He is the first in his family to enter a doctoral program, but he won’t be the last.
“I’m becoming a role model for my siblings, nieces and nephews,” Hernandez said. “Don’t be afraid of obstacles. Anything is possible as long as you can push yourself to find resources and be open to new opportunities.”
Class of 2025 DPT student Hadley Peterson, from Eugene, Oregon, said she liked how CHS-Northwest focused on the whole patient rather than just their injury. She also liked the people and the facilities.
“Overall, there was just a warm feeling. We all have very similar personalities. We want to help each other and get to know each other,” she said. “The facilities and equipment are really nice and modern. I’m excited to learn with it.”
Peterson said she has worked toward getting into PT school for a long time. She wanted to enjoy the white coat ceremony and soak it all in.
“That moment will really feel like it’s the start of something new,” Peterson said. “My parents are coming. It is really cool to see them here and to have the opportunity to thank them for helping me get here.”
CHS-Northwest held a Donor Dinner on July 7 and a ribbon cutting and open house on July 9. For both events, the main theme was the importance of community support in making CHS-Northwest a reality.
“This is our building. All of us. And all of you should be very proud of what you have helped us create. Thank you, all of you,” Schilling said. “We hope this is the first of very many visits that you will have. That you will come back. You will see what we are creating because we will continue to grow and to change as we continue to identify and meet more of the needs of this community. We are only at the beginning. Give us your feedback. Tell us what you need because we are here to serve you. Our students are here as servants as well, and they will only become the best therapists they can be with your help and learning how to serve.”
CHS-Northwest will welcome students into its Doctor of Occupational Therapy and Master of Public Health programs in 2023. The three programs will have an immense impact on patients’ lives, said WesternU President Robin Farias-Eisner, MD, PhD, MBA.
“I think the impact on patients’ lives and the community is immense, effectively addressing a multitude of patient and community needs. Just think about what is being done through physical therapy, occupational therapy, and public health. The most compelling in my opinion is addressing physical disabilities, injuries, the impairments, and mental health as well.
PT and OT are the branches of health care that help people of all ages who have an assortment of issues – physical, sensory, and cognitive. It’s really PT and OT that are the glue in medicine to affect a person’s emotional, social and physical needs.”
Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker volunteers for CHS-Northwest’s Practical Application Lab. He has lived an active life, which has resulted in multiple injuries – a broken ankle, broken sternum and ribs, and broken vertebrae in his back. CHS-Northwest students, supervised by faculty, measure his blood pressure, take his history, and gain valuable experience in the Practical Application Lab.
“It is fun to watch them mentor each other. They talk about what they’re going to do that day. The result of that for me was that my ankle has more range of motion,” Tucker said. “The promise that WesternU made about humanism, they fulfilled. They are caring. And each one of these people who are wearing their new white coats they got today will touch thousands of people in their lives. And those thousands of people, their lives will be made better and their families and the people around them will be made better when they’re in less pain.”