About 600 students will fulfill their dream of becoming health professionals at the Western University of Health Sciences commencement ceremonies on May 15-16, 2008. To help inspire and motivate these graduates, the university has invited four distinguished speakers to give the keynote address at each of the ceremonies at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

Herb K. Schultz, senior health policy adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, will address College of Pharmacy graduates on Thursday, May 15 at 2 p.m.

Larry A. Mullins, DHA, president and chief executive officer of Samaritan Health Services, will give the keynote speech at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) commencement on Friday, May 16 at 9:30 a.m.

Patricia Olson, DVM, PhD, president and chief executive officer of the Morris Animal Foundation, will speak on Friday, May 16 at 3 p.m. at the College of Veterinary Medicine commencement.

KNBC-TV Health, Medical and Science Editor Bruce Hensel, MD, will give the keynote speech at the College of Allied Health Professions and the College of Graduate Nursing commencement on Thursday, May 15 at 9:30 a.m.

“We chose Dr. Hensel to serve as our commencement keynote speaker because as a physician, he is familiar with the nurses, PAs and PTs, as well as the role of the health educator as part of the team,” said Stephanie Bowlin, EdD, PA-C, dean of the College of Allied Health Professions. “Dr. Hensel’s compassion for medicine sets him apart from others in his field. His unique abilities, experience and qualifications has led him to serve as the health and science editor/reporter for NBC4’s ‘Channel 4 News.’”

The health care industry is changing, which brings difficulties and frustrations as well as challenges and opportunities, Hensel said. He will talk about how to turn a very difficult playing field into an advantage for graduates and their patients.

“You as graduates have opportunities that have not existed before, not in spite of but because of the changing landscape,” Hensel said.

WesternU’s interprofessional education curriculum, which is in development, emphasizes collaboration and mutual respect among physicians, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and other health professionals. This teamwork is becoming more evident in the field, but there is nowhere near enough of it, Hensel said.

“I don’t think it’s just valuable, it’s paramount,” he said. “No one person can answer a person’s needs. There is a place for each one to take over for the other. That has to start with a plan that includes the whole team. The whole team needs to meet on a regular basis.”

WesternU is teaming with Samaritan Health Services, an integrated health care system of hospitals, physicians, clinics, health plans and other health operations in Oregon, to develop an osteopathic medical school in Lebanon, Ore. Samaritan Health Services provides third- and fourth-year core rotations for 12 COMP students per year, said COMP Dean Clinton Adams, DO, MPA, FACHE.

“Dr. Mullins is a pioneering spirit in Oregonian health care,” Adams said. “He has built a remarkable network of health care services and seeks to expand and provide for the future stability of health care in Oregon by establishing only the second health education campus in the state. His leadership has provided WesternU with the opportunity to open a second osteopathic medical school in Lebanon, Oregon.”

Mullins said he will talk to COMP graduates about the privilege of being a physician, the expectations of society and the critical challenge of providing access to care.

The relationship between WesternU and Samaritan Health Services has been mutually beneficial, he said.

“We’ve learned a lot from Western about the medical education model,” Mullins said. “They perhaps benefited from our system model and how it can have application to great learning institutions.”

Gov. Schwarzenegger is pushing for a new health care model, and Herb Schultz is on the front line of this health care reform effort.

The pharmacy industry plays a vital role in fixing a very broken health care system, Schultz said. Pharmacists will have an even greater role in the future given the aging of the baby boomers and the rise in chronic disease management, Schultz said.

His advice to graduates is to serve patients to the best of their ability, but to also remember the importance of joining the public debate.

“Often times, people get into their professions and they do really well in terms of patient care, but patient care should extend to getting involved in public debate, in how to better their profession and how to better help their patients,” Schultz said. “Get involved in the political process. Get involved in your trade association, because you control the destiny of your own industry. You further your own goals of assisting patients.”

WesternU has prepared its veterinary medicine students to think outside the box with its humanistic problem-solving approach, said Patricia Olson, DVM, PhD, president and CEO of Morris Animal Foundation, the largest non-governmental granting agency for companion animal and wildlife health studies.

These graduates are positioned to help address the potential spread of a pandemic such as avian flu or solve the cancer riddle, improving the health of animals and humans, she said.

“We want to protect animals under our care,” Olson said. “At the same time, what we do for them helps us all.”

All commencement ceremonies will be held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena, Calif. For more information, visit WesternU’s commencement Web site at www.westernu.edu/commencement.