Western University of Health Sciences held the first of six Commencement ceremonies for more than 1,000 graduates Wednesday, May 18, 2022 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California.
The College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) and the College of Podiatric Medicine (CPM) celebrated 260 graduates Wednesday morning. WesternU President Robin Farias-Eisner, MD, PhD, MBA, presided over his first WesternU Commencement ceremony and also provided the keynote address. WesternU will hold four additional ceremonies in Pasadena, followed by COMP-Northwest’s Commencement on May 27 in Lebanon, Oregon.
“As new graduates, you recognize the critical need for uniquely trained health care providers who possess the coveted and unique humanistic and compassionate skill set,” Farias-Eisner said. “You are now our ambassadors. The success of delivering the right product – your skillset – at the right place, at the right time, for the first time and every time is what drives large career successes. As new ambassadors, the global community is ready for your skills. This is your time. Please join me in a warm congratulations to all of you for seizing this moment and this time.”
WesternU graduates are uniquely trained and highly technically proficient health professionals, and humanistic and compassionate healers, Farias-Eisner said.
“You also are lifelong learners, ambassadors, leaders and embracers of new experiences. You are a beacon of promise,” he said. “Your new journey beckons, one full of new challenges, new relationships, new locations to explore and new opportunities abound. You are truly blessed, in my view, to have been equipped with these extraordinary tools for this new, exciting journey.”
These graduates will enter the frontlines of a battle against diseases of all kinds, not just COVID-19, said WesternU Interim Provost and Chief Academic Officer Paula Crone, DO ’92.
“There will be new frontiers of science and knowledge for you to discover and learn from and new challenges to face and obstacles to overcome,” Crone said. “In this world filled with division and wounds, you have the opportunity to serve and to heal. Indeed, it is one of your callings as a WesternU graduate as you move forward and take your place in health care. Know that as you do so, we’re so very proud of you. We have great confidence in you. And know that you will always have a place in our hearts and a home at WesternU.”
Farias-Eisner bestowed an honorary degree on WesternU Board of Trustees Chair Elizabeth Zamora, MBA, for her tireless service to the University through the challenging years of the pandemic and transition to new leadership.
Zamora thanked her husband and her parents for their support, and said she wanted to share this honor with the parents in the audience. Zamora is CEO of Bright Prospect, which empowers first-generation, low-income students to gain admission, succeed, and graduate from four-year colleges and universities.
“I know with certainty how much parents and extended family sacrifice for every dollar that is put towards your child’s education,” Zamora said. “To the graduates, I’m a first-generation student myself and I have the privilege of working with low- income, first generation youth who are overcoming challenges every day to complete their college degree. But you don’t need to be first generation to come from a background or a scenario where the deck is stacked against you, where your success isn’t promised, and in some cases, it is not even expected.”
Each graduate has overcome a multitude of challenges to persist through this most recent period in history, Zamora said.
“As we emerge from the collective trauma of the past two years and we assess our new world, know that you are essential to the healing and the rebuilding of our community,” she said. “You, graduates, are the rays of light shining through as we emerge from this darkness. Commencement is both a celebration of a chapter’s end and a new chapter’s beginning.
As each of you step into your next chapter, I congratulate you for dedicating your life in the service of healing others.”
COMP graduate Edgar Ordaz, DO ’22, said he wanted to become a doctor to give back to the community. He is entering a family medicine residency at the University of California, San Francisco in Fresno.
“I’m proud of the things we had to overcome. I’m happy to be here at this point in my career,” he said. “I feel like WesternU gave us the tools we needed to progress in our field.”
College of Podiatric Medicine graduate Wathmi Wijesinghe, DPM ’22, said reaching this moment felt surreal. Her background as a dancer led her to become interested in podiatric medicine. She was excited about being addressed as “doctor” for the first time as she walked across the stage.
“I’m sure I’m going to have an electric shock going through me,” Wijesinghe said. “It’s a sign of the hard work we put in.”