College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Professor Emeritus Rafi Younoszai, PhD, is retiring after serving Western University of Health Sciences for more than 30 years. Along the way he helped countless students and created community service student clubs that continue to thrive today, and he continues to inspire others to travel abroad to learn more about international medicine.

He came to the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in its infancy, driven by a great desire to teach. Osteopathic medical colleges were known to support good teaching, Younoszai said, and he also wanted to return to California, having earned his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley.

Nadir Khan, PhD, then Dean of Sciences, hired Younoszai and Gayle Nelson, PhD, on July 1, 1979. They both taught gross anatomy to first- and second-year students.

“Dr. Younoszai took an embryonic program of anatomy from conception to adulthood. He brought new academic standards in anatomy laboratory exercises and specimen preparation, and he established the basis for the current anatomical museum,” said WesternU Founding President Philip Pumerantz, PhD. “Equally important, he has served as a role model to generations of osteopathic physicians and students and to his colleagues. Although he is retiring, he will always be a valued member of our WesternU family.”

COMP was in an outdoor mall, with one lecture hall, no individual faculty offices and one dean and one receptionist, Younoszai said. COMP was mainly made up of non-traditional students – they were older, had been in the workforce for a while and needed a change.

“They wanted to become physicians,” Younoszai said. “They were dedicated people. They knew what they wanted and made up their minds. They were devoted people, hardworking and compassionate people.”

Younoszai also taught histology. The entire faculty assembled in one large room to prepare for lectures and to work on a new curriculum. There were no research facilities, and the faculty served on several committees, advised students, lectured, and instructed students in the physiology and gross anatomy labs.

“The students were all very motivated and dedicated, and it was fun to work with them in anatomy especially. We didn’t need high-tech equipment,” Younoszai said. “We had one-on-one teaching with very close interaction with students. It was very satisfying. The students appreciated that.

“Our offices were always open, and students could come in any time. We made very good friends from those first classes. Students themselves were very good to each other, which made for a good, congenial relationship between students and faculty.”

Younoszai attended the 1988 National Council for International Health (NCIH) meeting in Washington, D.C. NCIH at that time was celebrating the 10-year anniversary of successes in its Primary Health Care (PHC) projects in many developing countries.

The definition of primary health care at that time was also how osteopathic medicine defined itself, Younoszai said. At that conference, faculty from allopathic medical schools sending students abroad to learn about primary health care formed the Global Health Education Consortium (GHEC).

The need for Academic Health Centers in the U.S. to provide health care to surrounding communities was also called for during the meeting, Younoszai said. In response, Younoszai helped COMP create the Pomona Community Health Action Team (PCHAT), which has been providing basic health screenings to the Pomona community since 1995. Pomona Homeless Outreach Project (PHOP) was established soon after. Both projects are student-run, supervised by COMP physicians, and are now part of the students’ service learning curriculum activities.

“It is through service learning that students learn to identify the community and its needs, how to provide for unmet needs, to reflect on their civic responsibilities, and how to interact with students from other professions,” Younoszai said. “Service learning provides them interprofessional skills for their future medical homes.”

Younoszai established the Rafi Younoszai Fourth Year Elective in International Health, an endowed scholarship that covers some travel expenses for the recipient’s international rotation. Working with Trena Rich, Patient Care Center Director of Clinical Quality and Compliance, and Chique Magsino, Risk Management Associate, Younoszai developed specific Elective Application and Travel Forms requiring students to document their rotations goals and objectives, assuring that students have met U.S. and WesternU safety, immunizations, health insurance requirements and all other legal requirements. The forms are now used as templates by other WesternU colleges that approve international health experiences for their respective students.

“I believe that our existing health care system does not provide adequate and equitable health care to our needy communities,” Younoszai said. “Primary health care models in developing countries can become models of the medical home concept presently becoming more popular in California. This could bring down the cost of health care and make it more equitable. We need primary care physicians to attend the needs of these communities in the U.S. Providing opportunities for our students to practice in primary health care clinics in developing countries will, I believe, help train and entice our students to serve in needy communities locally.”

Younoszai said he is proud of many achievements: establishing the Wellness Club and organizing symposia on wellness; establishing the International Medicine Club to promote clinical experience for students in developing countries; and establishing a medical clinic with a pharmacy for the poor squatters in Tijuana, Mexico. He developed the Intensive Summer Anatomy Course (ISAC) for advanced incoming students (who then serve as facilitators in the regular gross anatomy course), and Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL).

Harriet Pumerantz, wife of President Philip Pumerantz, traveled with Younoszai to the Tijuana medical clinic and saw firsthand the impact he had on patients and students.

“Dr. Younoszai always had a great, big heart for students,” she said. “I enjoyed working with him. He’s just a good person. He was always caring and positive. He wanted very much for students to get the most out of their trips to Mexico.

“He is loved by the students, and it’s such a pleasure to be in his company. I think anybody in the student body who had the pleasure of working with Dr. Younoszai was better for it. He is a wonderful human being. He will always be in our hearts.”

Younoszai’s love of student interaction is what led him to his decision to retire. Asthma prevents him from teaching in the gross anatomy laboratory, taking away the opportunity to interact and bond with students.

His immediate plans are to spend more time with his wife Barbara, Professor Emerita at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., his sons Adam and Barak (both COMP graduates) and his five grandchildren, and enjoying the winter months in California with his brothers and sisters and the summer and fall seasons in Minnesota, Bethesda, Maryland and Hawaii. He also plans to travel throughout the U.S. and abroad.

He wants to write an article about the history of the development of the primary health care movement. He also wants to write an article on teaching experiential anatomy in medical professional schools.

“My most memorable time at WesternU is interaction with students in the gross anatomy laboratory, (and) advising students in developing meaningful relationships with each other, the communities, faculty, and with colleagues in other disciplines,” Younoszai said.