Oregon’s newest medical students are embarking on a path that will one day lead them to becoming integral parts of their patients’ daily lives, said the keynote speakers at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest’s (COMP-Northwest) second annual Convocation and white coat ceremony.
The ceremony, held Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012 at First Assembly of God Church in Lebanon, welcomed 107 first-year students to COMP-Northwest, the Oregon campus of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP), which is part of Western University of Health Sciences (WesternU) in Pomona, Calif.
Convocation marks the official WesternU welcome for new students and their families, as well as the opening of the academic year. The ensuing white coat ceremony, where first-year students are cloaked in their clinical garb by COMP faculty, marks the students’ entrance into the world of healers, and is a sign of their commitment to the health professions.
After welcoming remarks from WesternU President Philip Pumerantz, PhD, and by WesternU Board of Trustees Chairman Warren Lawless, Convocation keynote speaker Paula M. Crone, DO, Executive Associate Dean of COMP-Northwest, took the podium. She paid tribute to the people and organizations of Lebanon and the mid-Willamette Valley, as well as Oregon’s medical community, for helping COMP-Northwest get off to a strong start. The Oregon campus opened in July 2011.
"Belonging to COMP-Northwest means many things. It means belonging to a strong family and tradition at WesternU. It means belonging to a strong community here in Lebanon. Never forget your community."
"Here, you will grow into the physician you will become. Always remember, at the end of every action, of every thought and every deed, there is a patient. As their physician, you become woven into the fabric of their lives."
Crone’s words were echoed and expanded upon by the white coat keynote speaker, A. Paul Aversano, DO, clinical education site director for COMP-Northwest, who did his best to prepare the students for what lies ahead.
"Medical school is going to be the toughest time of your life," he said. "And it should be. People put their lives in our hands. It’s a privilege to be a physician."
"Remember that your success will reverberate in this town forever."
First-year COMP Northwest student Ryan Tischler, of Gresham, Ore., said he liked what he heard during Saturday’s proceedings. "It was the passion, just to hear a lot of the years that were up there on the podium. Don’t just go through the motions. Be passionate. Be caring, because you don’t know when it’s going to matter for a patient. I really want to take that to heart and not forget that."
Fellow first-year student Jennifer Svarverud of Cedar Falls, Iowa, said Saturday’s events underscored the reasons why she came to COMP-Northwest. "The big thing was the family that the school makes. It’s not competitive – it’s a very embracing atmosphere. Helping with the community, being very supportive. It’s something I really wanted out of my medical school."
Students’ parents also were impressed with COMP-Northwest’s atmosphere and its staff. "The whole process has just been very welcoming and open," said Peggy Brice of Portland, whose daughter, Anna, is a member of the Class of 2016. "Everyone is very accessible, which you know — if you’ve gone around to other schools – is unique."
Annie and Kelly Earley of Riverton, Utah, whose son Tyler is in the new class, said their son was impressed by COMP-Northwest’s facilities, and with the "personal touch" he felt during the interview process. "He interviewed, and they were supposed to send out notices in January or February, but the next week someone called him and said, ‘We’d very much like you to come to school here, and we don’t want you worrying until January,’" Kelly Earley said. "And that really impressed him."
Saturday’s ceremony also included the awarding of an honorary degree to William E. Bryan, EdD, who was instrumental in laying the groundwork for what became COMP-Northwest and who was lauded for his lifetime of dedication to the osteopathic profession. The degree was presented by President Pumerantz and by WesternU Provost and Chief Operating Officer Gary M. Gugelchuk, PhD.
Aversano received the Pumerantz Lifetime Fellow of Excellence in Osteopathic Medical Education Award prior to his remarks as white coat speaker.
The Convocation and white coat ceremony capped a week of welcome activities that included Parents Welcome at Mallard Creek Golf Course and the Crystal and Cheers celebration on the COMP-Northwest campus, which brought together COMP-Northwest supporters from around the state, as well as faculty and staff.
Crystal and Cheers was highlighted by the dedication of Heatherington Hall, the campus’ NMM/OMM lab. The hall is named in honor of FamilyCare Health Plans founder Jeff Heatherington, a longtime supporter of COMP and WesternU, who was a key player in helping WesternU and its main Oregon partner, Samaritan Health Services, launch COMP-Northwest.