New PNUW President Sees First Class Graduate at Yakima Medical School

On May 12, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, the Northwest’s newest accredited medical school, graduated its inaugural class of physicians from their College of Osteopathic Medicine. The members of the Class of 2012 began their journey when they arrived at PNWU in 2008, and have now graduated as doctors of osteopathic medicine. All 69 graduates have begun their residency trainings throughout the country, a final step before practice in their chosen medical specialties.

An eloquent commencement address was delivered by graduate Robert Lichfield, who stated, “I count my place in the inaugural class of this university as one of the sentinel distinctions and privileges of my life. Embrace this time and this school, and let it do for you what it has done for me.”

Also on hand to witness the historical ceremony was incoming president, Keith Watson, DO. Following a lengthy nationwide search, PNWU’s board of trustees named Dr. Watson the new president, who began his official duties on July 1.

Prior to beginning his role at PNWU, Dr. Watson was the senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and the chief academic officer for the Centers for Osteopathic Research and Education­—an entity overseeing 90 Graduate Medical Education programs in 26 training institutions. Most recently, he was awarded the American Osteopathic Foundation’s “Educator of the Year Award” for 2008 and fellowship in the American Osteopathic Directors and Medical Educators Collegium.

“I am deeply honored being selected for this leadership role,” he says. “PNWU is in a unique position to start training physicians to work as teams as they learn; which is an emerging trend on the national scene. Our mission and vision are focused on values and goals that support emerging medical practice and education models. I look forward to being part of this journey.”

The university’s journey started as a conversation around a table in 2004 to address critical health care shortages in the five-state region of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, soon became Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, through the efforts of founders, physicians and community members. Today, the accredited university is a four-year postgraduate institution, and its college of osteopathic medicine is one of only 29 schools of osteopathic medicine in the nation. Three-hundred medical students train in Butler-Haney Hall, under the careful instruction of highly qualified faculty.

PNWU plans to substantially increase the number of new practicing physicians each year, and prepare a new generation of doctors to serve the many at-risk people in the area’s underserved communities. Since opening its doors, PNWU has experienced tremendous growth. The Cadwell Student Center has been constructed, a major addition to Butler-Haney Hall is underway, and three additional classes of medical students have started their education. In addition to the Yakima campus, PNWU has established 18 core rotation sites in communities around the Pacific Northwest. Hospitals and clinics around the region have welcomed PNWU students, training them in the clinical settings where they will eventually practice.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences.