For 692 newly-minted Western University of Health Sciences graduates, the future is now.

The College of Allied Health Professions and the College of Graduate Nursing kicked off Western University of Health Sciences’ four-part 2010 Commencement Exercises on May 20, 2010, with the two colleges coming together in a morning event at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif.

Thursday morning’s dual ceremony was followed Thursday afternoon by the College of Pharmacy’s graduation. Friday, May 21 saw the College of Osteopathic Medicine and the College of Veterinary Medicine graduate their classes in the morning and afternoon, respectively.

Amid the hugs, tears, shout-outs and handshakes, an overall truth emerged: These graduates will play an important role in shaping health care now and in the future.

On Thursday morning, 171 Allied Health and 74 Nursing graduates were sent into the professional world by commencement speaker Joseph Dunn, an attorney who served as a California state senator from the 34th Senate District for eight years before becoming CEO of the California Medical Association from 2006-09.

Dunn told the graduates that one overriding thing – integrity – would make them successful in their professions.

Integrity “”is the No. 1 thing in this or other professions that dictates your success,”” he said. “”When it comes to integrity, it’s simply doing what’s right when you don’t have to. It’s doing what’s right when nobody sees you.””

Dunn put an added responsibility on the graduates’ shoulders.

“”Advocate for your patients. As you focus on caring for (them), always keep an eye on law, politics and economics, and how they affect your patients.””

The physician assistant profession seems to attract compassionate people, said graduate Carl Collins, MSPA ’10.

“”There’s a cohesiveness with PAs, like a current on the rise, with more of us entering health care,”” he said. “”We’re going to make a difference.””

He said he will remember the struggles, the sacrifices and the sleepless nights.

“”All these things are rough,”” he said. “”You get buffed and sanded. It was a struggle. And I did it. I’ll remember how hard it was but it pays off. It pays off.””

Each graduate chose a “”family hooder”” to participate in the ceremony with them. Tamara Lynn Maurizi, who earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, chose her husband, Larry, and her daughter, Erin Jones, as her family hooders.

“”It’s inspiring,”” Jones said. “”I’m very proud of her.””

The College of Pharmacy ceremony featured keynote speaker Alan Kiyohara, PharmD, FCSHP, Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy Operations Leader for Southern California. He offered three key messages to graduates.

“”Position yourself for opportunities,”” he said. “”If the opportunity isn’t there, create it. Never settle for mediocrity.””

He also advised graduates to enjoy life and find balance. And finally, he asked them to make a difference.

“”Make a difference in your patients’ lives. Make a difference in the profession,”” Kiyohara said. “”You have been given a gift. The gift of knowledge. You have a chance to enhance the care we provide to our patients.””

Edmond Reyhani, a new PharmD who will do a residency with CVS Pharmacy in Southern California, said he appreciated his time at WesternU because “”teachers had a very close relationship with students. You could reach them at any time; it was easy access.””

Michelle Candido, who received a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and will do her post-doctoral training with Kaiser Tri-Central’s Pharmacy Residency Program in Los Angeles, said she was excited and relieved.

“”It’s just the beginning, not the end,”” she said.

The second day of ceremonies began with the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific’s commencement exercises. Larry Wickless, DO, president of the American Osteopathic Association, emphasized the importance of postdoctoral training, which is a demanding yet rewarding experience.

“”So when you’ve come to the end of a difficult day, when you’ve had it with your attending, remember what they’re striving for,”” he said. “”They’re trying to make you the best DOs you can be. They’re trying to make you better physicians.””

He also reminded them to study and read, to make time for their family, and to listen to their patients.

Graduate Maryam Dastrange of Storm Lake, Iowa will perform her residency at Des Peres Hospital in St. Louis, MO, specializing in anesthesiology. She cited WesternU’s location as a draw – “”I really wanted a West Coast school”” – and added that COMP’s clinical rotation structure was a real plus to attending the University.

“”The variety of hospitals where we did our rotations was really valuable,”” she said. “”I went all over the place, and I learned a lot about how different systems operate, which will be really helpful.””

The COMP ceremony also included a special presentation honoring WesternU Board of Trustees Treasurer Ethan Allen, DO, FACOFP, as the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Pumerantz Lifetime Fellow of Excellence in Osteopathic Medical Education.

Allen served as the founding chairman of the board of directors of COMP, which later became Western University of Health Sciences with the addition of new colleges. He also played a pivotal role in re-establishing the power of the Board of Osteopathic Examiners to license new DOs in California in 1974.

“”It is incumbent upon us all to remember and honor the devotion, perseverance and hard-fought battles he and his colleagues won so that we may benefit from the fruits of the profession, the school and the university he helped build, one president, one student, one faculty, one building at a time,”” said COMP Dean Clint Adams, DO, MPA, FAAFP, FACHE.

Allen was moved to tears by the honor, which was a surprise to him and the audience.

“”This is so profound a recognition,”” Allen said. “”Each step along the way, you didn’t realize where you were headed. But everyone fell into line. We came from a small beginning to what is now a marvelous, wonderful university. Our financial status is strong, and our students turn out to become humanistic cornerstones in this profession.””

The 100 students who made up the College of Veterinary Medicine’s fourth graduating class capped WesternU’s 29th Annual Commencement Exercises by hearing from Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM, PhD, whose 25-year veterinary career has been augmented by two decades as a standup comic, 10 seasons as host of the Animal Planet TV series “”Emergency Vets,”” and many national and Denver-area TV and radio appearances.

Fitzgerald listed off several things that have helped him over the course of his career, and suggested students take advantage of them: