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WesternU kicks off Commencement ceremonies

by Rodney Tanaka

May 18, 2016

Read 4 mins

Doctor of Podiatric Medicine graduate Tommy Lee Talley receives his degree. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)
Doctor of Podiatric Medicine graduate Tommy Lee Talley receives his degree. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

Let’s get this party started.

Western University of Health Sciences held the first of five Commencement ceremonies at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California. The College of Allied Health Professions and the College of Podiatric Medicine conferred degrees on 209 graduates.

Wm. Jahmal Miller, MHA, deputy director of the California Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity, lauded the achievements of this “august, dynamic, essential, esteemed, game-changing, historic and legendary graduating class of 2016” and encouraged the graduates to loosen up and “get the party started.” He also implored them to help shape the future by tackling the problems of health disparities.

“Your education has prepared you for good jobs and great careers in health care,” Miller said. “But the true measure of your accomplishment will only come from your ability to make a real difference, not just for the patients that make it to your offices, the staff that you manage in your clinics or your hospitals, but also for the ones you will never see. Health doesn’t happen in a medical office. Health happens where you live, learn, work, play and pray.”

The Portrait of California 2014-15 Human Development Report states that an Asian American baby born today in California is expected to outlive an African American baby born on the same day by more than 11 years. That difference can be as much as 17 years depending on which county in California that particular baby is born in, Miller said. Another report states almost a quarter of the children in California live in poverty and don’t have enough food to eat.

“Consequently, children growing up in poverty receive less and lower quality education. They earn less as adults, are more likely to receive public assistance, and have lower quality health and higher health costs over their lifetime,” Miller said. “You can help position us for the elimination of health disparities and the creation of health equity for all. There’s no better time than now for you to commit your careers and your lives to creating the kind of future we all want for our children and for our grandchildren.”

Achieving health equity is the greatest social justice issue of our time, Miller said, because the color of our skin, where we live, how much money we make, these should not dictate how long we live.

“Class of 2016, we need you,” he said. “We truly need you in this struggle and journey to achieve health and mental health equity. The future of our state and our nation depends on dedicated health professionals like the graduating class of 2016 working with singular focus to ensure that everyone has access to the resources that enable them to lead healthy lives. When I look at you, I see key change agents in advancing our state and our nation’s efforts to achieve health equity, and from what I see our future is bright.”

Graduates felt a mix of emotions as they prepared to walk the stage and receive their diplomas.

“It’s a little bittersweet, but mostly I’m pretty excited,” said College of Podiatric Medicine graduate Mark Thompson, DPM ’16. “It’s fun to see all my classmates again who I haven’t seen in awhile and celebrate.”

Thompson will enter a residency program at Heritage Valley Hospital in Beaver, Pennsylvania. He wanted to enter podiatric medicine because he was interested in surgery and he likes the work-life balance the profession offers.

“I am ready to move on to the next step,” Thompson said. “It’s surreal. Something I’ve been looking forward to for four years is finally here. It’s been a good journey.”

Proud parents Drs. Arnie and Liz Klein from Portland, Oregon, hooded their son Matthew Klein, DPT ’16, who graduated from the College of Allied Health Professions’ Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

“He’s had such a great experience at WesternU that I already told them I would donate my body,” Dr. Liz Klein said. “That’s one of the reasons that he choose WesternU. He had choices and he chose WesternU because of the one year of anatomy. It’s been a really great experience for him.”

The College of Pharmacy and the College of Dental Medicine ceremony follows at 3 p.m. today. The College of Graduate Nursing and College of Optometry will open the second day of celebrations at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, May 19. The College of Veterinary Medicine will follow at 3 p.m. WesternU’s Commencement ceremonies in Pasadena conclude at 9:30 a.m. Friday, May 20 with the Graduate College of Biomedical Sciences and the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP).

COMP-Northwest, WesternU’s Lebanon, Oregon campus, will hold its second Commencement ceremony June 3, 2016. At the conclusion of all Commencement ceremonies, WesternU will have more than 13,400 alumni.

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