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First new medical school to open in more than 100 years

Two West Linn High School graduates are part of medical school's inaugural class
by: Submitted photo West Linn graduate Jonathan Hattenhauer is one of the first students at the new medical school COMP-Northwest.

Two West Linn High School graduates are part of the inaugural class of the state's newest medical school.

COMP-Northwest, located in Lebanon, Ore., opened its doors and started classes Aug. 8.

The facility is the first new medical school to open in the state of Oregon in more than 100 years. This fact is important in that, despite Oregon's population continually growing, the number of doctors is shrinking.

Jonathan Hattenhauer, 24, and Matt Hadeed, 22, both of West Linn, are excited to be two of the 107 students selected for the first year at the school.

'I absolutely love it,' Hattenhauer said. 'I love the school.'

Hattenhauer graduated from West Linn High School in 2005 and then graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in human physiology.

His love of medicine started as a child. His dad is a physician, and his mom is a surgical nurse. They moved to Lake Oswego five years ago.

'Ever since I was little, my dad and mom would have these great stories at the dinner table,' Hattenhauer said. 'It's such a rewarding field.'

He said he chose to follow in their footsteps because he wants a profession where he can be a lifelong learner and make positive moments in people's lives.

Hattenhauer heard of COMP-Northwest when it was recommended by a DO (doctor of osteopathy) he was job shadowing. He liked the idea that it was brand new and close to home.

Hadeed, who also attended UO and majored in human physiology, said he chose COMP-Northwest because it was close to home.

'I didn't want to leave the West Coast,' he said.

Hadeed said he likes the idea of osteopathy compared to other medicine practices. Osteopathy focuses on a person as a whole not just treating a symptom or a disease.

Some might think Lebanon, a small town with a population of about 15,000, is a strange place to open a state-of-the-art medical school. However, once hearing the school's partnership and its mission, it makes perfect sense.

The school's mission statement is: 'To educate students from the Northwest in a medical school in the Northwest to practice medicine in the Northwest.'

COMP-Northwest (College of Osteopathic Medicine) is located on the 50-acre Samaritan Health Sciences campus. The new building is a partnership between Samaritan Health services, the city of Lebanon and the Western University of Health Sciences (which is the university COMP-Northwest is part of).

The school has a staff of 30 faculty members. By 2014, the college plans to have 400 students and its first class will graduate in 2015.

The main building of the campus is 55,000-square feet. It features state-of-the-art classrooms, auditoriums and anatomy and research labs.

'The technology is incredible,' Hattenhauer said of the building. 'It's a top-notch campus.'

Hadeed agrees. 'Campus is awesome. The building is so high-tech.'

While he knows he wants to practice osteopathy, Hattenhauer is unsure where he will focus. He, like many of the other students, plans on finishing a full rotation of classes before narrowing his focus.

Hadeed said he is also unsure of what he wants to specialize in, but currently he is leaning toward orthopedic surgery.

The field they choose to work in though, will be a boon to the industry. Today, Oregon and much of the Northwest is facing a shortage of doctors, especially in rural areas.

Hadeed, having volunteered in other countries, said he has seen firsthand what the lack of health care can do to a community.

In fact, the total U.S. population has grown while the number of working physicians has decreased, according to a 2007 report by the American Association of Medical Colleges.

'For Oregon, the shortage is doubly troublesome because most medical students must go out of the state for their education and often do no return to practice. Only 17 percent of Oregon physicians were educated in the state,' according to a COMP-Northwest release.

The shortage is due to a generation of doctors retiring and too few area medical schools to fill the gaps.

But the good news is, COMP-Northwest will help to start filling in some of those gaps. And, 60 percent of the incoming students are from the Pacific Northwest.

Students were selected from 2,049 applications. From those, 256 applicants were submitted to interviews. Narrowed down again, 107 students were selected.

Hattenhauer said the application process was long and meticulous. The process included submitting personal information, undergraduate classes and grades, a two-page personal statement and a deposit.

After several weeks, Hattenhauer was then asked to write several short essays as to why he wanted to attend the school and why they should select him over all the other candidates.

'Writing several essays for many different schools becomes a very long process, but you really get to understand yourself and your motivations,' he said.

When Hattenhauer was invited to an interview, he said, 'It was one of the happiest moments in my life, but very humbling.'

A few weeks later, he was accepted.

'Acceptance to medical school was like having an elephant lifted off my shoulders,' he said. 'I could not be any happier.'

He also mentioned COMP-Northwest already has 2,000 applicants for next year. So far, since moving onto campus, both Hadeed and Hattenhauer said they are enjoying the campus and the community.

'I love Lebanon. I love the people. I could definitely see myself practicing in a community like this,' Hattenhauer said.

A 'white coat' ceremony was held for all incoming students July 30. In front of friends and family, the students took an oath of service.