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Dr. Philip Pumerantz, who founded Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif., in 1977, talks with COMP-NW students during a visit to the Lebanon medical school Wednesday. Pumerantz received feedback from and offered encouragement to the students, who started classes in August. (Alex Paul/Democrat-Herald)

LEBANON — In time, the COMP-NW medical school on the Samaritan Health Sciences Campus could host a far-reaching diabetes institute like that on the Western University of Health Sciences campus in Pomona, Calif., local civic and government leaders learned Wednesday.

WesternU President Dr. Philip Pumerantz said the California campus includes nine colleges — osteopathic medicine, allied health professions, pharmacy, graduate nursing, veterinary medicine, dental medicine, optometry, podiatry and biomedical sciences.

“Our colleges have an interprofessional nature,” said Pumerantz, who founded WesternU in 1977 in a vacant shopping mall. “They are all in one place and working together to deal with human illness. We have targeted diabetes, which affects a person’s feet, eyesight, hearing and more. We are bringing the faculty together to do research. A person with diabetes will be able to come to one place and students will get great clinical experience.”

Pumerantz stopped short of saying which discipline will become the first to join COMP-NW on the Samaritan Health Sciences Campus, which welcomed its first class of 100 students in August. But he made it clear that with the continued support of Samaritan Health Services and the community of Lebanon, other colleges will be coming.

Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist said his wife is a graduate of the WesternU physical therapy program and suggested the Pacific Northwest could greatly benefit from another veterinary medical school.

Pumerantz said WesternU started its veterinary school 10 years ago, even though naysayers thought it was a bad idea.

“But now, people realize there is a human-animal bond when it comes to healing,” Pumerantz said. “Dogs and cats help make us well.”

Pumerantz said he has been especially impressed with how the community of Lebanon has welcomed the medical students and faculty. He’s also excited about the potential for partnerships with the new veterans home, for which ground will be broken by fall.

“We’re only into the second semester of our first year and the place looks like it’s been here a long time,” Pumerantz said.

Five years ago, WesternU employed 300 people, Pumerantz said. It now employs more than 1,000 people in family-wage jobs. Senior vice president Tom Fox said WesternU has a nearly $500 million economic impact on the city of Pomona.

Pumerantz called the initial class of 110 students, “an incredible group.” In addition to long hours of classes and studying, the students have taken part in numerous community activities including volunteering to fill sandbags during the recent floods. They are also active with Lebanon School District programs.

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