"While there was obviously the potential to bring bright, well-educated people into our traditionally blue-collar community, I was also concerned about the possibility that there would be a divide between the community and the college – the ‘Town & Gown’ situation," Carol said. "This hasn’t happened at all – on the contrary, everyone involved with COMP-Northwest has been committed to being an integral part of the community, and likewise, the community has embraced COMP-Northwest."
"In our travels around the country we have stopped at many smaller towns and really noticed a difference if there was a college in the town," John said. "Higher education seems to make a town more vibrant, and people not only care about their living environment but seem to do something about changing it for the better. We were really hoping this would be the case in Lebanon, and it appears to be."
During the early planning stages of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific – Northwest, the Dingeses invited Paula Crone, DO, and Paul Aversano, DO, to dinner, and their support and hospitality has continued to this day. Crone is now Dean of COMP and Aversano is a clinical professor at COMP-Northwest.
"Carol and John Dinges have been involved with our COMP-Northwest story from the first announcement of our presence in Lebanon," Crone said. "They were the first to reach out to Paul and me, to invite us to dinner at their home to welcome us to their community and learn more about our school and students. They never fail to support all our events, from the big to the minor. They reach out when they hear about a student need, and always provide support to help make their community and our role in it as strong as possible."
The latest example of the Dinges’ generosity is the establishment of the John and Carol Dinges Medical Education Scholarship, the first private-party scholarship established at COMP-Northwest. The Dingeses donated $25,000 to provide a $5,000 scholarship each year to a COMP-Northwest student who comes from a small town and is committed to practicing primary care in a small town.
"I’ve been concerned about the shortage of medical professionals in rural areas for many years. Western states have vast, sparsely populated areas where it could be 100 miles or more to the nearest hospital," Carol said. "We can’t solve this problem, but perhaps our financial assistance can help encourage a student who wants to practice in one of these underserved areas, but who might be concerned about how to repay medical school loans with the relatively modest income of a rural primary care physician.
"We are ordinary people, and I hope that others will recognize that they need not be wealthy to make a difference," she added.
"Carol and John each help to make our students successful in so many different ways," Crone said. "Their support of our student scholarship program is just another of many examples of their leadership and dedication to learning and to their community. They set a fine example for all the rest of us to follow in helping to create brighter futures through helping our students reach their potential."
The Dingeses have supported many programs benefitting COMP-Northwest and its students. They donated to the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce’s "Tools of the Trade" program, which provides each new COMP-Northwest student with a medical bag to welcome them to the community. John hands out medical bags to students every year at COMP-Northwest’s Convocation ceremony.
"We have always supported projects in the area that we thought were important to the educational growth of Lebanon. COMP-Northwest has been the biggest to come along, and we felt we could make a difference," John said. "We donated four medical bags because we wanted to be involved with each of the first four classes, and it gave me great pleasure to physically hand each bag to a new student and shake their hands."
Medical schools are traditionally located in urban areas, but living in a small, rural community is an entirely different cultural experience, Carol said.
"One significant difference is that every individual in a small town is important," she said. "Supporting COMP-Northwest is our way to let the students and staff know how important each of them is to our community – to help them see what’s good about living, and perhaps practicing medicine, in a town like Lebanon."