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COMP student inspires, educates while battling pulmonary hypertension

by Rodney Tanaka

August 14, 2013

Read 3 mins

When Sean Wyman was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH) at 18, doctors told him the severity of the illness would prevent him from ever working or going to school.

But Wyman was destined for more than that. He graduated from UC Riverside in 2011 with a bachelor’s in psychology, earned a Master of Science in Medical Sciences from Western University of Health Sciences the following year, and enrolled in WesternU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in fall 2012 to become an osteopathic physician.

He had wanted to become doctor as a child, but was leaning toward a teaching career because many of his family members were teachers, including his mother. But taking anatomy and physiology at Chaffey College and shadowing a pulmonologist for two years re-ignited his interest in medicine.

WesternU’s MSMS program re-introduced him to osteopathic medicine and its philosophies, which resonated with him.

“You constantly have to learn. You have to teach your patients. You’re always able to find out new things, whether it is from what other people find, or doing research on your own,” Wyman said. “It lets you do everything. It also gives me a chance to become ingrained in the community and work with the underserved.”

Wyman took a leave of absence from COMP after his first semester. He was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia at the end of 2012 and it was discovered that fluid had built up around his heart. He changed his medication and his doctors cleared him to return to his studies in October, barring further complications.

Wyman remains an active member of the WesternU community during his leave, volunteering with the Native American Summer Pipeline to College program and interviewing potential MSMS candidates.

“We want him to have the best care possible, to ensure he comes back and fulfills his calling,” said Jodi Olson, MSMS program director. “He is determined to make more of his life. Even this year, when on medical leave, he came back to do interviews for the MSMS program. So he really gives a lot more than he gets. He’s someone to look up to because he’s pushing so hard to make a difference.”

Pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in the lungs, is a chronic and life-changing disease that can lead to heart failure if left untreated. Wyman is on the donor list to receive a lung transplant, but he’s not necessarily high on the list in terms of need. His insurance will cover the surgery, but not post-operation expenses. A lung transplant requires two weeks to three months to recover. A social worker suggested raising money to cover these expenses.

Wyman started fundraising at Go Fund Me, He has already received more than $14,000 in donations. The pulmonary hypertension family is really close and they always help each other out, so he was not surprised to receive those donations, he said.

“I was extremely surprised by the generosity of the people from WesternU, some I haven’t met. Some third and fourth-year students who I will never meet until maybe after graduation,” he said. “It’s surprising, but it reaffirms the reason I stayed at WesternU and didn’t go anywhere else for medical school. There’s something about the campus. Everyone here is really nice. When I had to take a leave of absence, everyone I dealt with through COMP was supportive. It has just been amazing.”

Wyman is happy to talk about his story, but not for his own benefit. Instead, he wants to raise awareness of pulmonary hypertension, which is often misdiagnosed. He has spoken at PH conferences and talks to other young people diagnosed with the disease. As part of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association’s Young Adult Advisory Board, he helped create Generation Hope. The mission of Generation Hope is to connect young adults with pulmonary hypertension and to provide a safe and positive place to find support, inspiration and information. Click here for more information:  

Living with pulmonary hypertension affects the kind of doctor Wyman wants to become.

“I know what kind of care I expect, and the bedside manner I expect. I hope I can return that and better,” Wyman said. “You have this idea of seeing a person as a whole, which is the foundation of osteopathic medicine as it is.”


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