Western University of Health Sciences embarked on a special mission when it opened its doors in 1977 as the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific: educating tomorrow’s health care professionals with a combination of scientific excellence and a humanistic, compassionate approach to patient care.
From an inaugural class of 36 students in 1978, enrollment in the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific grew to more than 400 by 1986. That same year, the addition of the Master of Science in Health Professions Education program paved the way for what would become the College of Allied Health Professions, which was renamed the College of Health Sciences in 2018. Meanwhile, the University continued acquiring former Pomona Mall buildings, remodeling them for educational use.
1998 was another landmark year for WesternU, as the College of Graduate Nursing was founded in March, and the College of Veterinary Medicine — the first veterinary college in Southern California, and still one of just two such colleges in California — was established just five months later.
The first foundation-up construction at WesternU was the Veterinary Clinical Center, which opened in August 2008. One year later, the University welcomed inaugural classes in three new colleges — Dental Medicine, Optometry, and Podiatric Medicine. In conjunction with this remarkable academic expansion, the University further enlarged the physical campus, erecting a 180,000 square-foot Health Education Center, a Patient Care Center, a Veterinary Pathology Center, and a 600-car parking garage.
Were not all this growth sufficient, the University ventured north in 2011, opening the WesternU Oregon campus with 400 students at an additional site of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in Lebanon. The University has embarked on further expansion in Lebanon as a key part of the overall WesternU Strategic Plan, “Achieving Aspirations,” with the College of Health Sciences welcoming the inaugural Oregon cohort of Physical Therapy students in July 2021 and adding an Occupational Therapy program to the Lebanon campus in 2022.
2016 also was an important milestone in WesternU history, as the University welcomed just the second president in its history. Upon the retirement of Founding President Philip Pumerantz in 2015, after a national search the University Board of Trustees appointed Daniel R. Wilson, MD, PhD, as president. Dr. Wilson, an internationally distinguished neuropsychiatrist, anthropologist and academic administrator, took office in July 2016 and among other major accomplishments led the University through the worldwide COVID pandemic, sustaining WesternU’s exceptional mission across all Colleges with strategy, financial management, and plans for growth despite a health crisis that necessitated extensive remote learning, physical distancing for the in-person clinical simulation classes still needed to keep students on track for graduation, and remote work for most of the University’s 1,200 employees.
In October 2020, Dr. Wilson announced he would step down from the presidency on June 30, 2021. The WesternU Board of Trustees appointed Sylvia Manning, PhD, as Interim President until a successor to Dr. Wilson could be found, and in the fall of 2021 announced that Robin Farias-Eisner, MD, PhD, MBA, would become the third president in WesternU history effective March 1, 2022. President Farias-Eisner joins WesternU after serving Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, as Director of the Henry Lynch Comprehensive Cancer Research Center and as Chief Academic Officer for the School of Medicine. Prior to Creighton, he worked for many years as a professor, administrator, and chair of gynecologic oncology at UCLA.
Today, WesternU is home to more than 3,800 students in 27 academic programs on three campuses, as well as 1,200 employees; operates multiple clinical entities in Southern California and Oregon; and is one of the most thriving enterprises in the Pomona and Inland Valleys of Southern California and the mid-Willamette Valley of Oregon.