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WesternU COMP-Northwest and the Lebanon community welcome new students

by Rodney Tanaka

August 7, 2023

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Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest (COMP-Northwest) capped off Welcome Week with a white coat ceremony for 108 new students on Aug. 4, 2023, at Lebanon First Assembly Church in Lebanon, Oregon.

The students were given practical advice for thriving in medical school, words of encouragement in making their mark on society, and a unique and personal welcome gift from the community they are joining.

WesternU President Robin Farias-Eisner, MD, PhD, MBA, said the white coat is a symbol of integrity and professionalism, and this white coat ceremony offers an induction into this noble calling of medicine and is a privilege to uphold and to behold.

“We believe that learning the art of communication and humanism and the art of healing and compassion is just as important as learning the scientific knowledge of the craft,” Farias-Eisner said. “As a surgical oncologist, I share that invariably, you may care for patients who may have terminal diagnoses, and without a clear, effective treatment. These are the very times that your compassion and your humanism and your humor itself can bring unfathomable healing to the bedside. So never forget those WesternU ethos. They will come to you at times that you never expected.”

WesternU Provost Paula M. Crone, DO ’92, speaks at the COMP-Northwest white coat ceremony Aug. 4, 2023, in Lebanon, Oregon. (Steven Webber, WesternU)

WesternU Provost Paula M. Crone, DO ’92, said this class is a special group that has already been described as “on it,” “focused,” “passionate,” and, “bring it on world, we’re ready.”

“We know that our students will help lead and transform as they move forward and we want them to do so while still maintaining their compassion, their empathy, and their caring hearts,” Crone said. “Students, now is the right time to be trained to be an osteopathic physician. Your future patients and their communities need you now more than ever.”

COMP and COMP-Northwest Acting Dean David Connett, DO ’84, FACOFP, Dist., addresses new students at the COMP-Northwest white coat ceremony Aug. 4, 2023. (Luke Rauch, WesternU)

COMP and COMP-Northwest Acting Dean David Connett, DO ’84, FACOFP, Dist., told the students they were carefully chosen to lead and transform the future of health care.

“Your generation of physicians will be instrumental in shaping the face of medicine, and future patients and communities will undoubtedly rely on your dedication and skills,” Connett said. “I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the diversity and unique backgrounds that each of you brings to our institution. You come from all corners of the country and beyond, with varied interests, passions and talents. Yet what unites you all is a shared passion for science and medicine. You represent the future of our profession, and we have the utmost confidence in your potential.”

Keynote speaker and COMP-Northwest alumna Ginger Cupit, DO ’17, shared some of the hard-earned lessons she learned as a student: embrace the uncomfortable, build up and nurture your support system, and keep an open mind when deciding on what area to practice.

COMP-Northwest alumna Ginger Cupit, DO ’17, talks about her medical school experiences at the COMP-Northwest white coat ceremony. (Steven Webber, WesternU)

Cupit bombed the first anatomy test she took at COMP-Northwest. She had memorized all the muscles, but she didn’t understand their purpose or function.

“My core was shaken, and I started to doubt that medicine was for me, but I decided to lean into the discomfort and stay after class, ask for extra help, and kept studying until I really understood things,” Cupit said. “To my surprise, I discovered that you can’t get through medical school by memorizing facts and regurgitating them on tests. You actually have to know the ‘why.’”

Take advantage of these four years in this learning environment before a precious life is truly in your hands. It will make you a better physician, Cupit said. “You are now a part of this special family as you embark on this transformative journey. Remember to lean in to the uncomfortable feeling you get from information overload. Commiserate with your fellow classmates and find your friends who will share this adventure with you. Be open to the endless possibilities of where you may take your career,” Cupit said. “Let’s uplift and support one another as we venture forward together. May your journey be filled with growth, compassion, joy and moments that make you laugh out loud. Let’s make our mark in the world of medicine, one step at a time.”

COMP-Northwest students hold up their doctor bags provided by community members via the Lebanon Tools of the Trade program. (Luke Rauch, WesternU)

Doris Modderman represented the local residents who support the Lebanon Tools of the Trade program. Each COMP-Northwest student is given a doctor’s bag at the white coat ceremony to welcome them to town. Each bag contains special gifts from local businesses, information about the Tools of the Trade program and, most importantly, a handwritten note from a community member.

“We sincerely hope you will feel welcome here,” Modderman said. “We’re a small town. We’re a close-knit town. We are happy that you have chosen to be here with us. We are extremely proud of this school and each and every student. Again, congratulations and welcome to Lebanon.”

Welcome Week kicked off on July 31 with introductions to faculty and staff and a welcome barbecue, which the students appreciated.

“It’s relaxed here. Everyone is talkative and friendly. So far, it’s been a really good experience,” first-year COMP-Northwest student Ken Ha said at the welcome barbecue.

Donning the white coat for the first time makes him feel proud and grateful at the same time, Ha said.

“You feel proud of yourself for getting here. We have all put in hard work to achieve this goal,” Ha said. “Putting on the white coat validates the work. I’m grateful for my family and my parents. I’m happy they are able to experience this with me during that time.”

COMP-Northwest students don their white coats for the first time. (Steven Webber, WesternU)

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