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WesternU opens first of five Commencement ceremonies in Pasadena with COMP, CPM

by Rodney Tanaka

May 15, 2024

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A group of graduates in green and yellow academic regalia stand in a theatre filled with people, facing the camera. The ornate ceiling and upper balconies are visible in the background.
WesternU College of Podiatric Medicine graduates recite the Podiatric Physician’s Oath at Commencement. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

Western University of Health Sciences is celebrating Class of 2024 graduates with five ceremonies beginning today, May 15, 2024, at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California. Eight colleges will hold ceremonies over three days in Pasadena, starting off with the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) and the College of Podiatric Medicine (CPM).

Commencement will conclude on May 24, 2024 in Lebanon, Oregon with ceremonies for COMP-Northwest and the College of Health Sciences-Northwest.

WesternU President Robin Farias-Eisner, MD, PhD, MBA, is presiding over the ceremonies. He quoted Mark Twain, who stated “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day that you find out why.”

“Today, we can honestly say that one of those reasons why is you are destined to a higher calling to join the elite group of healers in the art of the medical sciences,” Farias-Eisner said. “You are our new ambassadors and our emissaries. This year, WesternU celebrates a momentous achievement, surpassing 21,000 alumni worldwide. You will now join those elite ranks. You are forever a part of the WesternU community and we welcome you with open arms.”

A speaker stands at a podium on a stage with a "Western University of Health Sciences" backdrop. The screen behind shows Teresa A. Hubka's title and affiliation. People in academic robes sit behind her.
AOA President-Elect Teresa A. Hubka, DO, gives the keynote address at the COMP and CPM Commencement ceremony. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

Keynote speaker Teresa A. Hubka, DO, President-Elect of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), noted this Class of 2024 entered osteopathic and podiatric medical school amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet in the face of adversity, they remained steadfast in their pursuit of their dreams. They navigated virtual anatomy labs and embraced social distancing while studying medicine, an experience unlike any other in the history of medical education.

“The true measure of a physician lies not in the accolades they receive or the titles they hold, but the lives they touch and the difference they make in the world,” Hubka said. “You are all here to make that difference.”

This is a time of great opportunity for osteopathic medicine as the profession celebrates the 150th anniversary of its founding by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. The number of DOs have tripled in the past 30 years, and there are more than 186,000 DOs and osteopathic medical students throughout the United States. More than 11% of physicians in the U.S. are osteopathic physicians, Hubka said.

“The osteopathic profession plays a critical role in addressing the health care disparities that will contribute greatly towards the predicted physician shortage expected to reach 124,000 in the next decade,” Hubka said. “The AOA stands for you and behind you advocating for policies that strengthen, protect and defend osteopathic medicine and the highest standard of care.”

She told graduates to never lose sight of the profound impact they can make in the lives of others.

“Whether you choose to practice in underserved communities, pursue groundbreaking research, or advocate for health care reform, know that your contributions have the potential to touch countless lives and inspire future generations of healers,” Hubka said. “Go forth in the world and carry with you the wisdom of your education with compassion in your hearts and the courage of your convictions.”

CPM alumna Bryanna Vesely, DPM ’20, MPH, provided a welcome from the WesternU Alumni Association. She is a Foot and Ankle Surgical Fellow at Desert Orthopedic Center in Las Vegas. She encouraged graduates to take the time to listen to their patients to truly understand their concerns and perspectives.

“Treat each person with the same level of care and compassion that you would want for your loved ones and never underestimate the power of a kind word, a gentle touch, or a compassionate presence in providing comfort and healing to your patients. But beyond clinical skills and medical knowledge you have acquired, remember that being a doctor also means advocating for change,” Vesely said. “As you navigate the complexities of our health care system, never lose sight of the need for equity, access and justice for all. Speak out against injustice. Work to dismantle barriers to care. And strive to create a world where everyone has an opportunity to live a healthy and fulfilling life.”

COMP posthumously honored two members of the family – Kay Kalousek, DO ’89, MS ’94, AAHIVE, FACOFP, an alumna and longtime faculty member and administrator, and Sumeet Brar, a member of the DO Class of 2024.

COMP reserved a seat at Commencement for Brar, who aspired to specialize in psychiatry. He made a profound impact on our community with his intelligence, compassion and dedication, said COMP and COMP-Northwest Acting Dean David Connett, DO ’84.

“He exemplified the best of our profession, blending academic excellence with a genuine commitment to serving others. His willingness to help peers and mentor newcomers and contribute to the community demonstrated the core values of osteopathic medicine,” Connett said. “While we deeply feel Sumeet’s absence today, we also celebrate his life and the legacy he leaves behind. His spirit continues to inspire us to strive for excellence and to live by the principles he embodied.”

COMP posthumously conferred upon Brar the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree, which was presented to his parents.

Connett also honored Dr. Kalousek, a revered faculty member and administrator who dedicated her life to medicine and education. Her influence remains a beacon that guides our community, Connett said.

“Her commitment to nurturing the next generation of health care professionals has left an indelible mark in our hearts and on the medical profession,” Connett said. “As we celebrate today’s milestone let us carry forth the values that Dr. Kalousek championed. To the graduates, I urge you to embrace the legacy of dedication and service that she exemplified.

Let her life remind us of the impact one individual can make in the lives of many. To Dr. Kalousek, thank you for your invaluable contribution to our College and the world of medicine. Your memory will continue to inspire us and guide our path forward.”

Graduates in green and black academic robes stand in rows, holding programs, during a ceremony in a large auditorium.
COMP graduates recite the Osteopathic Oath at Commencement. (Jeff Malet, WesternU)

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