New frontier

Guinea pig or pioneer? Reflections on attending a new medical school

Last week, WesternU/COMP-Northwest graduated its inaugural class. Meghan Aabo, DO, was one of the school’s first students.


As the Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest in Lebanon, Oregon (WesternU/COMP-Northwest) graduates its first class of DOs, Meghan Aabo, DO, reflects on the benefits of attending a brand new school, including the opportunity to help mold its curriculum, in this edited interview.

You’re a member of the inaugural class of WesternU/COMP-Northwest. What was that like?

Trepidation comes with starting anything new. When I interviewed at the school, it wasn’t fully constructed yet. Everybody in my class was taking a leap of faith. But I went with my gut. I could tell that the people involved in the development of the school were committed to building something great—and they did. I had a fantastic time.

WesternU/COMP-Northwest is connected to the Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in Pomona, California, which meant we already had a lot of architecture and support in place for our program to really hit the ground running.

A lot of our classes were part of a shared curriculum between the two campuses, so some of our instructors were down in Pomona and we watched them over a live webcast.

You co-created a supplemental course to train future physicians in nutrition and lifestyle concepts. Did the fact that you were at a new school give you a chance to help shape the curriculum?

Yes. My classmate Katherine Peters, DO, and I became interested in nutrition education. We organized a series at the public library, where we gave nutrition talks to the public. At the same time, our school wanted to start a wellness medicine initiative. They invited us to their discussions on curriculum development.

Eventually, we developed a nutrition in medicine course in collaboration with a faculty member, Robyn Dreibelbis, DO. The course is now offered at both campuses.

What advice would you give to other med students at new schools?

Be enthusiastic about your role as a pioneer. Understand that minor speed bumps will come and go. Always look for things that could be improved upon. My classmates and I had the philosophy that we wanted to leave the school better than we found it.

One comment

  1. Ryan

    Meghan and Katherine are two amazing individuals. They helped shape our class for the better and I’m proud to call them my colleagues. They’re gonna be great physicians!

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