About 700 new students will get their first full taste of life at Western University of Health Sciences during Welcome Week, Aug. 4-9, 2008.

Activities include orientation sessions, team building and an ice cream social hosted by Dr. and Mrs. Pumerantz. The week culminates with Convocation and white coat ceremonies on Saturday, Aug. 9.

The ice cream social, held at the Pumerantz’s home, sets the tone for the academic year, said WesternU President Philip Pumerantz, PhD.

“It’s an opportunity I can’t miss,” he said. “The ice cream social helps me fulfill my belief in a strong, close family environment.”

Convocation brings together the entire WesternU family to start the new academic year, Pumerantz said. White coat ceremonies represent the commitment students have to enter into the healing arts, he said.

“The white coat is symbolic of the high expectations society has for healers,” he said. “It’s important for students and parents who participate in this ceremony to feel this importance and to become inspired to keep the notion of the compassionate, caring healer alive.”

Each college and program organizes activities specifically designed to give students a better understanding of their responsibilities.

For example, the College of Veterinary Medicine will hold team building exercises at The Claremont Colleges, which help support students’ interaction in the problem-based learning curriculum, said Beverly Guidry, EdD, WesternU Vice President of Student Affairs.

“Welcome Week and Commencement are certainly two of the most exciting times of the year for the university and for student affairs,” she said. “We make a special effort to create a welcoming environment for them.”

Pharmacy students will learn about professionalism and teamwork during Welcome Week, said Sam Shimomura, PharmD, College of Pharmacy Associate Dean for College Advancement. Students typically spend mornings in lectures and afternoons with team assignments throughout the year, he said.

“They work on cases and presentations together,” Shimomura said. “During orientation they learn how to work in teams, overcome issues and get along a little better.”

Due to many of the College of Graduate Nursing’s students being Web-based distance learners, Welcome Week gives the students a connection to the university and the college by putting a face and an image to their new program, said Diana Lithgow, PhD, RN, FNP, CGN Assistant Dean of Distance Education, who organized the college’s Welcome Week activities.

“All of our data shows that the distance students develop stronger bonds with their classmates to assist them with their academic success than traditional classroom students, and this first experience on campus begins the process,” Lithgow said.

The College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific holds sessions on policies and procedures, financial aid, library services and information technology, said Gisele Tackoor, JD, COMP Assistant Dean for Student Affairs.

Second-year COMP students pair with first-year students to help familiarize them with the campus, she said.

“They act as a big brother or big sister to help them get acquainted with the school,” Tackoor said.

One of the most important issues COMP addresses during orientation is socialization as the student moves from being a layperson to becoming a professional clinician, she said.

“The development of student professionalism is highly stressed to the students commencing the day they are admitted to the college,” Tackoor said. “Professionalism is not optional as it is part of a Code of Conduct and essential for effective patient care.”

COMP also talks about the importance of balance – getting enough rest, proper nutrition, and exercise in order to prevent stress-induced illnesses, fatigue, anxiety and burn-out.

“The study of medicine is extremely challenging and students who maintain a healthy lifestyle are more apt to excel academically and professionally,” Tackoor said.

The three College of Allied Health Professions programs – Physician Assistant, Physical Therapy and Health Sciences – meet together on Thursday, Aug. 7 in the morning and then have program-specific meetings in the afternoon.

The new PA class will establish “norms,” standards the students agree to adhere to throughout their WesternU education, such as leaving your ego at the door so you will be receptive to ideas and respectful of others, said Roy Guizado, MS, PA-C, Chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Education.

“These are rules they agree upon to enhance their education,” Guizado said.

Convocation will be much more crowded in 2009 with the addition of four new colleges – the College of Dental Medicine, the College of Optometry, the College of Podiatric Medicine and the Graduate College of Biomedical Sciences. These new colleges have exactly one year to prepare for their first influx of students.

“We’re confident that we’re going to build upon the success of the existing programs and the warm atmosphere of the university,” said College of Optometry Dean Elizabeth Hoppe, OD, MPH, DrPH. “We can’t wait to welcome our first students. I can’t wait to find out who they’re going to be. They’re going to be very special.”