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.