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WesternU’s goal: audacious, nimble innovation

by Rodney Tanaka

March 2, 2017

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Western University of Health Sciences President Daniel R. Wilson, MD, PhD, gave his first State of the University address March 1, 2017, offering a message of inclusion, celebration and collaboration to sustain and expand WesternU as the nation’s most nimble, innovative and audacious graduate health sciences university. The tone was set with the opening slide: On the State of Our University.

Wilson took over as WesternU’s second president July 1, 2016. He has spent the past eight months familiarizing himself with University operations, evaluating its resources, and meeting faculty, staff and students on campus, as well as many people from the community.

“From these encounters, I’ve gotten a deeper sense of our university — our history, our special culture, the current state of where we are — and I think I can begin to delineate some of our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and perhaps more importantly, begin to envision farther shores beyond our already very bright horizons,” Wilson said.

The university’s special culture and tremendous growth is a sign of the stewardship and vision of President Emeritus Philip Pumerantz, who founded WesternU in 1977 as the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific. Pumerantz in turn recruited talented people who cared and loved the institution as much as he did, Wilson said, leading a round of applause for Phil and Harriet Pumerantz. 

“Phil would also acknowledge that nothing of the present scope or activities or dimensions of the university were envisioned at the outset. For us to have attained the heights the university now enjoys, and yet to be on only its second president, says much about the foresight of the founders and the founding vision and values that underlie our mission,” Wilson said. “Such strength and durability is also seen in the transition itself. I think it’s a testament to all involved in this university that things are in such good operating condition. The university is in good shape, and that’s remarkable.

“And now we have more great things ahead of us.” 

Wilson said he has met many collaborators in the community, all of whom speak highly of WesternU’s mission.

“Affiliation with this university is a badge of honor,” Wilson said. “As our health professions students through their stellar careers are our best ambassadors, they will continue to burnish this badge of honor.”

Wilson said he enjoys visiting classrooms and laboratories and stopping for chats with students on the Esplanade. He also enjoys visiting WesternU’s COMP-Northwest campus in Lebanon, Oregon, which has an “extraordinary, vibrant excitement and enthusiasm with remarkable community engagement.” This raises the question of whether WesternU should expand again. Wilson said a work group will examine the issue and help advise him on the best path.

Some adjustments already are underway, including an expanded Presidential Cabinet that draws from a broad range of expertise and backgrounds, the launch of a University Budget Advisory Committee, and the completion of a Campus Master Plan that converges nicely with the Pomona city planning process.

Nationally noteworthy strategic advisers have been engaged to help optimize advancement and philanthropy, branding and marketing, strategic alignments and partnerships, international initiatives, and configuration of research.

Education is a mode that has consequence to WesternU’s deeper mission, which is to generate large numbers of extraordinarily well-trained professional health servants for the region, for the state and for the broader world, Wilson said.

“And it’s through them that we fulfill our actual mission, which is to enhance health broadly, to save lives and to reduce suffering. We achieve that through our education,” he said.

WesternU has challenges, Wilson said, but we have “strong operations, a broadening reach, bright horizons, a pent-up energy after this growth, a wealth of opportunities from which to select carefully, and we’re blessed with talented, loyal and creative people,” Wilson said.

“So the state of our university is strong. I’m very pleased to be with you here. The only impossible journey is the one that is never begun. And the next leg of the journey begins now.”

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