The American Osteopathic Association has named WesternU alumnus James Lally, DO ’91, the 2008 Mentor of the Year.

The award, presented at the AOA convention in November, recognizes his dedication to helping WesternU students and the many medical residents and patients who enter Chino Valley Medical Center, where he serves as president and chief medical officer.

Dr. Lally said he was surprised, pleased and privileged to receive this recognition.

“Any time someone receives recognition from their peers for their efforts, it is a humbling and rewarding experience,” he said.

Dr. Lally was nominated by residents at Chino Valley Medical Center and Bavand Youssefzadeh, DO ’11, OMS-II Class President at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific.

Dr. Lally paid for his entire class’ membership in the Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons of California (OPSC) and bought their white coats, Youssefzadeh said. He constantly gives to the class and encourages students to represent WesternU and COMP at national conferences, Youssefzadeh said.

“Dr. Lally is straightforward,” he said. “He doesn’t beat around the bush. He tells you how it is. More importantly, he fights for our profession. He encourages us to get involved.”

Membership in professional organizations should be viewed as “part of doing business,” just like having to pay rent or have malpractice insurance, Lally said. He paid for the medical bags that OPSC provided to the Class of 2012 to support OPSC leaders’ desire to make an impression.

“I am so fortunate to be in a profession that has given me a quality of life commensurate with my willingness to work,” Lally said. “So to give back is an honor and a privilege.”

The Mentor of the Year award recognizes the invaluable contribution of mentors to the osteopathic medical education continuum. More than 200 nominations were received for more than 175 mentors in 2008.

Dr. Lally advocates for the profession on a national level, and encourages students to learn other aspects of the profession besides medicine, Youssefzadeh said.

“Being a good doctor is about how much you can help a patient, but it’s also about how you can fight the system to help your patients and yourself,” Youssefzadeh said. “He gets you thinking about more than just your interaction with your patients. How can you have good interaction if you’re not involved on the national level?”

For years, physicians told everyone that they did things because they were ‘altruistic’ and complained about how the world treated them, Lally said.

“Lawyers, to their credit, politicked their way into the positions that now tell the doctors how they will be paid, when they will be paid, and how much they will be paid,” Lally said. “We need to start raising our voices and be heard. It is our profession that gets up in the middle of the night to go to the ER to take care of someone who has a life-threatening situation. In all my years, I have never met one attorney at the ER bedside.”