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Western University of Health Sciences Celebrates 20th Annual Commencement

by Rodney Tanaka

May 15, 2001

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For the first time in its history, Western University of Health Sciences

will confer a posthumous degree to a member of one of its graduating

classes during the University’s 20th annual Commencement Ceremonies,

Saturday, May 26.

Corey A. Ryan of Newcastle, California, will receive an honorary doctor of

osteopathic medicine (DO) degree from the University’s College of

Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP). Ryan died in December at age

27 after an extensive bout with testicular cancer.

The University has awarded “”certificates of attendance”” to students who

died before completing their studies, but has never before conferred an

honorary degree posthumously.

“”Corey’s friends came to us and asked if we could do this,”” said George

Charney, DO, executive vice president of academic affairs/chief academic

officer. “”COMP’s faculty were convinced that Corey would have been an

outstanding osteopathic physician and therefore thought this would be a

wonderful way to honor him.””

Ryan’s family – his wife, Christine, and his parents, Jerry and Sherrie –

will receive Ryan’s degree in a special presentation just after the the

University’s 463 graduates receive their diplomas during the 1 p.m.

Commencement at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Ryan was diagnosed with the cancer in April 2000, just a few months into

his third year of medical studies, during the clinical portion of the four-

year program, when he was training under physician preceptors at area

hospitals. In a letter he wrote to the campus community last summer, Ryan

mentioned how being treated for cancer made him appreciate in a way no

classroom or clinical experience could, the practice of medicine from the

patient’s point of view.

“”Now in one dramatic moment, my entire perspective had changed,”” he

wrote. “”I was now that desperate patient we’ve all seen before – that

terrified patient who knows he or she has a condition which could claim

their life and that they have no one to turn to except you, their healer,

hoping you will know how to help them, to possibly offer a cure or, at the

very least, alleviate their suffering.””

Just three weeks before his death, Ryan was talking to University

administration about coming to campus to present a seminar on his

experiences as a patient, in the hope that his classmates could learn from

his first-hand knowledge.

“”All who knew him here at Western University consider ourselves

exceedingly fortunate to have had Corey come into our lives,”” said Philip

Pumerantz, PhD, president. “”He brought grace and dignity to his studies

and his personality buoyed his classmates. They will each take a part of

his compassion with them into their practices.””

Students from four of the University’s five colleges will receive one of

the following degrees or certificates: a DO degree, a Doctor of Pharmacy

(PharmD) degree, a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degree, a Master of

Science (MS) in Health Professions Education degree, a Master of Science

in Nursing (MSN) degree, a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) certificate, a

combined Master of Science in Nursing/Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN/FNP)

degree/certificate, or a Physician Assistant certificate. The University’s

fifth college, the College of Veterinary Medicine, will greet its first

class of students in fall 2003. Members of that college’s charter class

will graduate from Southern California’s first and only college of

veterinary medicine in June 2007.

The Reverend Chris Brown, assistant pastor of the First Baptist Church,

Pomona, will deliver the Commencement Address, “”Earn It.””

The Pomona Concert Band, led by Conductor G. Stanton Selby, will perform

music for the ceremony, including the recessional, “”Fanfare and Grand

March,”” written by Selby exclusively for Western University.


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