Western University of Health Sciences held five commencement ceremonies on May 15-16, 2008 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, filled with proud parents, relieved and exhausted graduates and words of inspiration from guest speakers.
About 600 students graduated from the colleges of Allied Health Professions, Graduate Nursing, Pharmacy, Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific and Veterinary Medicine. Along the way, students made lifelong friends and learned valuable lessons.
“I learned to be patient with people and to listen,” said Nirav Rathod, PharmD ’08.
Graduating took more determination than they knew they had, said Rafik Hodeib, DO ’08. But his goal of becoming a doctor was finally fulfilled.
“I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” he said.
The College of Allied Health Professions and the College of Graduate Nursing ceremony featured keynote speaker Bruce Hensel, MD, KNBC-TV Health, Medical and Science Editor.
Hensel said he had maintained professional detachment until his father died. After his father’s death, he broke down crying at the bedside of a patient he couldn’t save. He put his arms around the patient’s family.
“From that day forward I changed,” Hensel said. “I saw what a comfort it was to them showing them how much I care.”
Larry A. Mullins, DHA, president and chief executive officer of Samaritan Health Services, talked to College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific graduates about the privilege of receiving a medical education.
“The biggest privilege is the unique relationship you will have with patients,” he said. “With privilege comes the great expectation that you’ll be there.”
These physicians will be at the side of family members in their time of need.
“When science is not enough, compassion and humility make the most difference,” Mullins said.
Herb Schultz, senior health policy adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, talked about trust and responsibility at the College of Pharmacy commencement.
“People who come into that pharmacy trust in the pharmacist,” he said.
He challenged the graduates to play a crucial role in educating patients as well as policy makers about the role pharmacists play in health care.
Patricia Olson, DVM, PhD, president and chief executive officer of the Morris Animal Foundation, talked to College of Veterinary Medicine students about their “future of opportunities.”
Veterinary medicine is a key partner in unlocking the puzzle to address genetic, environmental and nutritional risk factors, she said. The recipe for success includes nine “Cs” – creativity, confidence, compassion, competency, communication, common sense, customer service, collaboration and character.
“You have joined an amazing profession,” Olson said. “I have had absolutely no regrets, and I hope that you won’t either. Go forth and save the world and keep an open mind.”
Some students will not wait long in their goal of helping to save the world. Sherry Gregory, her son Daniel Gregory, and Daniel’s wife, Bethany Gregory, all graduated with a master’s degree in Nursing, Leadership and Management from the College of Graduate Nursing on May 15.
“We wouldn’t have made it without each other,” Bethany Gregory said.
They all want to use their training to serve poverty-stricken countries overseas, Sherry Gregory said.
The three years they spent studying together brought them closer as a family, Daniel Gregory said.
“When you’ve gone through something like this, it makes the relationship that much stronger,” he said.
The audience brimmed with proud parents watching their children reach their goals. Alice and Dusty Taylor watched their daughter, Lauren Elisabeth Tucker-Taylor, earn her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and shared the stage with her to help her put on her academic hood. She grew up in an agricultural area in northern Louisiana and has wanted to be a veterinarian seemingly since she was born, Alice Taylor said.
“You’re never more proud than when your children get what they worked so hard for,” she said. “Now we can say ‘our daughter the doctor.’ All these kids worked so hard to get there.”
The occasion reminded Dusty Taylor of a quote he knew by heart:
“Life is not measured in the breaths you take, but in the moments that take your breath away,” he said. “This is one of those moments.”