About 700 new students, their families and friends received an introduction to Western University of Health Sciences at the Convocation and white coat ceremonies on Aug. 9, 2008.

Convocation, held off campus at Pomona First Baptist Church, welcomes and honors the entering classes each year, said WesternU President Philip Pumerantz, PhD. The day’s activities, which also included white coat ceremonies and a welcome barbecue at WesternU’s Pomona campus, gave guests a chance to learn about WesternU’s programs and to meet faculty, staff, students, alumni and administration. Click here to view the photo gallery.

The white coat ceremonies symbolize students’ entry into the healing professions, and serve as a reminder of the powerful influence of the healer, WesternU’s president said.

“That ceremony reflects our university’s underlying core value of compassion and caring,” Pumerantz said.

Each of WesternU’s five colleges held their own white coat ceremony. The College of Graduate Nursing’s speaker, Jan Boller, PhD, RN, CGN Associate Professor, spoke about “Career Success and Satisfaction Through Clinical Scholarship.”

Her “three points for success and satisfaction” included:

• Discover your passion…your unique contribution as a nursing scholar.

• Seek and create learning and work environments that foster excellence, holism and empowerment.

• Model humanity, with yourself and with others.

Karen Hanford, MSN, FNP, Dean of the College of Graduate Nursing, said the most meaningful aspect of Convocation and white coat ceremonies is the reaction of students.

“I think what is really exciting is the enthusiasm students have for the event,” she said. “They really get a flavor for the culture of the university.”

Andrew Pumerantz, DO, Chair and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine for the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP), talked at the COMP white coat ceremony about the challenges and opportunities ahead for incoming students.

Faculty will teach students how to think and reason as physicians, and will expose them to the best that is known and taught throughout the world, Pumerantz said. He also told students to strive for balance.

“Maintain a serenity and presence of mind; clearness of judgment,” he said. “In so doing, you will earn the confidence and respect of your patients, your peers, and yourselves.”

The College of Allied Health Professions white coat ceremony featured two speakers: Miguel Medina, PA-C, President of the California Academy of Physician Assistants and WesternU instructor, and Cheryl Resnik, PT, DPT, president of the California Physical Therapy Association and assistant professor of clinical physical therapy at USC.

Medina talked about "Shaping the Future of the Physician Assistant Profession." He told the students that they are entering a sacred profession that requires their best.

"I would like to challenge all of you today, that by dawning these white coats you will shed all of your old educational habits and be cloaked with a the new attitude that is needed in our medical world today," he said. "That attitude is one on intellectual honesty, caring for your fellow students, faculty members, preceptors and the patients you will encounter during your training. Once you graduate the dawning of your white coats will symbolize a competent empathic health care professional."

Resnik talked about the values of the Physical Therapy profession: accountability, professional duty to provide effective care, integrity, compassion and caring, excellence, altruism and social responsibility. These are lofty goals, but not unattainable, she said.

“Make each contract for care one that will be valued by both yourself and your patients,” Resnik said. “Live up to the faith and confidence your new professional colleagues have in you.”

The College of Veterinary Medicine white coat ceremony guest speaker was Gregory Hammer, DVM, 2007-08 president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and now the association’s Immediate Past President. He is a small animal and equine practitioner in Dover, Del., is part owner of the Branford Animal Hospital in Dover, and has been a veterinarian for more than 33 years.

After noting that the students assembled probably all came from competitive academic environments where classmates were constantly trying to one-up each other, he said, “Those days are over. Now it’s time to start challenging yourself to be the best doctor you can be.”

“There has never been a better time to be a veterinarian,” Hammer said. “Demand is very high, and the supply of veterinarians is low. Welcome to the greatest profession on earth.”

John D. Jones, RPh, JD, vice president of government affairs and pharmacy policy for Prescription Solutions, gave a speech at the College of Pharmacy white coat ceremony titled “Your White Coat – Welcome to your Opportunity for Discovery and Accomplishment.”

The white coat ceremony was exciting, said Ian Rojas, PharmD ’12.

“It’s the feeling you get when you work so hard and you finally realize you’re there,” he said.

Several students commented on the family atmosphere they found at WesternU during Welcome Week, which introduces students to campus through orientation sessions, team building and an ice cream social hosted by Dr. and Mrs. Pumerantz. This year’s festivities also included a special grand opening of the Banfield Veterinary Clinical Center, the first new construction project in WesternU’s history. WesternU had previously renovated structures to suit its educational and institutional needs.

The staff and faculty make an effort to get to know the students, said Sonia Mvuemba, MSHS ’09.

“I get the impression they want you to succeed, and they’ll do their best to help you succeed,” added Kellie Lam, MSHS ’09.

The College of Veterinary Medicine’s Welcome Week activities solidified why she chose WesternU to begin with, said Jennifer Bailey, DVM ’12. Students were introduced to the problem-based learning process, held team building exercises and explored their goals and ideas.

“This week gave us the tools we need to really hit the ground running,” Bailey said. “I think we have a really good group."