Tomorrow’s health care professionals should embrace diversity, help direct resources away from high-cost treatments and toward cognitive care, and seek out patients rather than waiting for them to simply show up, a leading Southern California health administrator told Western University of Health Sciences’ class of incoming students Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013.
William Henning, DO ’86, Chief Medical Officer of the Inland Empire Health Plan, made the remarks during his keynote address at WesternU’s annual Convocation and white coat ceremonies, held at Fairplex in Pomona. More than 1,100 new students, their families and friends celebrated the beginning of their graduate health sciences education during the event, which was presided over by Philip Pumerantz, PhD, president of WesternU.
Henning, a 1986 graduate of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific – which became Western University of Health Sciences in 1996 – told the first-year students in WesternU’s nine colleges that the University will provide them with an excellent education for dealing with the changing face of health care. “My education was probably the best tool chest you could imagine for serving a diverse population,” he said.
But embracing and systematically dealing with that diversity – especially as millions more poor and uninsured Americans become eligible for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act – will present challenges, he said, because “our model of care is not outcome-driven, and it’s not designed for diversity. … We like to say we have the best health care in the world. But America’s not the best health care system if you measure outcomes. We are 38th. But we’re No. 1 in health care costs.”
He said changes promised by the Affordable Care Act would extend coverage to 100 million people – some already partially insured, others currently without insurance – and “gives us an opportunity to stop and say, ‘What makes health care in those 37 nations better than in the United States?’
“The saying goes that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. We need to be at the table.”
Henning said it’s also imperative for health care providers to seek out patients who need care the most, either by visiting them where they live and work, or by establishing community-based centers where they can seek care. Collaboration among the health professions will be critical to this and every other health care initiative going forward, he noted.
“The physician is not the Lone Ranger,” he said. “We physicians need to realize that we are harming health care if we try to keep everything on our plate.”
Henning also left the new students with a quote from a famous “doctor” to ponder as they undertake their professional careers. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” The quote comes from the book “The Lorax,” by Dr. Seuss.
Following Henning’s speech, as well as official welcomes from Provost and COO Gary Gugelchuk, PhD, and faculty, student, and alumni representatives, the academic year was declared officially open. Students and their families then migrated to eight separate Fairplex sites (and one at Pomona College in Claremont) for each college’s white coat ceremony, which symbolizes students’ entry into the health professions.
At the College of Pharmacy white coat ceremony, Amy Gutierrez, PharmD, Chief Pharmacy Officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, told the Class of 2017 that pharmacy would offer them a wide range of professional practice opportunities, and that they had a tremendous responsibility to serve patients personally.
“While you’re wearing this coat, you’re going to touch many lives,” she said. “You have accepted an intensely personal calling that’s guided by the core values of compassion.
“I welcome you to the family of pharmacists. Do us proud.”
After greeting each member of the new class of students following their donning of a white coat, College of Pharmacy Dean Daniel Robinson, PharmD, closed the ceremony by telling the class that at the end of each day, they needed to ask themselves two questions: “Have I done anything I shouldn’t have? Is there anything I should have done that I didn’t?
“Until you can answer those questions, you’re not ready to go home,” he concluded.
Graduate College of Biomedical Sciences white coat ceremony keynote speaker Sol Lizerbram, DO, Chair of HealthFusion, Inc., told students that this was a great day for them and for the future of health care.
“You and your colleagues will have the opportunity to have a positive effect on the lives of many people,” he said. “Einstein said, ‘A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’ This is your chance to make positive mistakes. Make them often. That will lead to great progress.”
Students understood the significance of donning the white coat for the first time.
“I’m honored to have that white coat on me and to have that responsibility that comes with it,” said incoming College of Dental Medicine student Noor Sharrak, DMD ’17.
Jeanne Speir, mother of incoming COMP student Baier Rakowski, said she had been hoping for this moment for a very long time. She has worked as a family nurse practitioner for 30 years, and she is happy that her son is also entering health care.
“He’s got a humanity to him that I thought would be good in a health care provider,” she said. “He has all the skills and the intelligence, but just remember the humanity is all there is to it.”
The Convocation and white coat event culminated in the annual President’s Welcome Lunch on the Esplanade of WesternU’s Pomona campus.
The Pomona Convocation was the second of two for WesternU in the past week. COMP-Northwest, WesternU’s Pacific Northwest campus for the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, welcomed 105 new students at its Convocation and white coat ceremony Aug. 3, 2013 in Lebanon, Ore.