Western University of Health Sciences’ annual scholarship fundraiser honored longtime partner Molina Healthcare, with Molina announcing a new collaboration that will bring rehabilitative vision care to those most in need.

WesternU held its 35th annual “A Tribute to Caring” (ATC) fundraiser at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. The event attracted more than 550 attendees and raised more than $130,000 for student scholarships.

“WesternU is pleased to be honoring Molina Healthcare tonight,” said WesternU Interim President Gary Gugelchuk, PhD. “Molina is a long-term friend and partner of the university, not least because we share a similar commitment to providing compassionate care to people in need and putting those patients first in all we do. Our Access to Caring Award is an acknowledgment of all Molina has accomplished, and how it will continue to be of enviable and essential service to millions.

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“Western University of Health Sciences thanks all of you for your support this year, and those who have supported us throughout the nearly four decades we’ve been educating tomorrow’s health care leaders,” Gugelchuk added. “You are all important members of the WesternU family. We’re happy you’re here for our biggest family celebration.”

Molina Healthcare President and Chief Executive Officer J. Mario Molina, MD, accepted the Access to Caring Award on behalf of his company. He also made an exciting announcement about a new partnership between Molina and WesternU’s Eye Care Center.

Molina Healthcare is pledging $400,000 toward the purchase of a comprehensive mobile eye care unit “to bring access to care for patients who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get it,” Molina said. “We will provide specialty rehabilitative services for the visually impaired and the blind with special needs to improve self-care and independence. For those without access, such as individuals in nursing facilities and those who are homebound, this unit will travel to them.”

“This generous support from Molina Healthcare will allow us to meet the needs of the community in a new and creative way,” said College of Optometry Founding Dean Elizabeth Hoppe, OD, MPH, DrPH. “I am very excited about the opportunity to directly impact the health and well-being of people who are at significant risk for unnecessary health complications. Thank you for this wonderful partnership!”

Molina Healthcare arranges for the delivery of health care services and offers health information management solutions to millions of individuals and families who receive care through Medicaid, Medicare, and other government-funded programs in 17 states and two U.S. territories. At the core of this Fortune 500 company is the belief that when it comes to health care, everyone should be treated like family.

“We have thousands of employees across the country who are dedicated to fulfilling the mission of making sure everyone has access to care, regardless of their financial position or their ability to pay,” Molina said. “That was the mission my father started many, many years ago.”

Emergency room physician C. David Molina, MD, founded Molina Healthcare in in 1980 in response to seeing low-income, uninsured or non-English-speaking patients coming to the ER in need of general health care services. Without family doctors, they were not always getting the right care and information. These underserved families deserved better, and Dr. Molina opened a clinic in Long Beach to provide low-income families and individuals with a place to get personalized health care from Molina doctors.

Dr. J. Mario Molina remembers accompanying his father to visit WesternU’s Founding President Philip Pumerantz, PhD, in downtown Pomona before the university was established.

“I remember when this young man came out and met with my father, and had this idea of starting an osteopathic medical school in Southern California, and most people thought he was crazy. And I remember going with my father to see the campus, which at that time was a deserted mall in Pomona,” Molina said. “We peeked into the windows of these vacant buildings. And it’s really amazing how far this university has come to become one of the premier health science campuses in the country.”

He also addressed the many WesternU students in the room.

“You are deservedly proud of your education and of the school where you are training,” Molina said. “We have hired a number of your graduates over the years, and I know that your graduates typically place on top in their standardized testing and board scores, and do very well in getting competitive postgraduate appointments.”

Students who attended ATC appreciated the guests who contributed to scholarships. First-year College of Pharmacy student Jonathan Choi said he works 25 hours a week as a pharmacy intern to help make ends meet.

“That on top of classes is difficult. It’s sometimes a big burden,” he said. “(Scholarships) can help the student get by. They’re donating to a very good cause. The students in my class are going to contribute to society in a positive manner. They’re going to be saving lives. If you’re investing in us, you’re investing in the future.”

ATC really shows the impact WesternU has on the community, said first-year College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific student Scott Mahlberg. Receiving a scholarship reinforces your drive and is really humbling, he said.

“It shows that people are recognizing what you’re doing,” he said. “They see enough potential in you to financially support you. It gives you a little more responsibility to not only do your best, but to give back in the future.”