Inaugural Class of 2012 Celebrates First PNWU Alumni Reunion

On Saturday, May 20, as the sun began to set over the mountain peaks in the distance, alumni from Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences inaugural class gathered at Bale Breaker Brewing Company in Yakima, WA for the first ever PNWU five-year reunion. Basking in the spring warmth and sitting in soft green grass alongside hanging hops, the alums gathered with their families, including smiling children and panting dogs, to reconnect with people who reinvigorated memories of a long and rewarding journey. 

Smiling and shaking hands with former classmates, the attending alumni from the Class of 2012 discussed trials and tribulations in their own experiences in the medical field, as well as inspiring stories of achievements and struggles, tips for success and memories of their days in Terrace Heights. 

Their time as the first members of the PNWU family had provided them a ticket to years of experiences and life-changing events, and as they stood gazing at a map illustrating the locations of practicing PNWU alums just like them, they couldn’t help but to reflect on where it all started. 

From the dusty dirt path that led from the parking lot to the classroom building, to challenging lab experiences; from insightful lectures they sat through side-by-side to the occasional skinny coyote that wandered campus in search of discarded granola bars, their conversations floated upon the musical notes of Dr. Sorrells’ band, who provided a musical backdrop for the event.

The alumni in attendance knew of their own connections to the Pacific Northwest — they all currently practice in Washington (Dr. Vaughan Bulfinch practices in Selah, Dr. Marie-Elise Cadwell Meyer in Puyallup, Dr. Courtney Kennel in Tacoma, Dr. Kelly Noyes in Ellensburg and Dr. Rachel Wright Witham in Spokane) — but the statistics of their alma mater still resulted in awe. 

As they looked across a board of push-pins signifying the locations of practicing classmates, they couldn’t help but to comment on the statistic that the University always hoped would come to fruition: 82% of PNWU graduates had returned to the Northwest.

Dr. Rachael Witham told fellow alum about her visit back to campus that morning, where she received a tour of her former stomping grounds from Jan Jorgenson, the University’s Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations. 

No longer was the path from the parking lot to the classroom building a whirlwind of dirt; now it was paved, with streetlights hanging overhead. Some of their favorite teachers were still there, delivering insightful lectures and challenging labs as they influenced the next generation of healthcare professionals. The granola-loving skinny coyotes seemed to be long gone, but their personal love of the university remained and their excitement for the future grew with each step. 

They met several members of the Class of 2017, as well as their family members who happened to be in town to celebrate the graduation of their family members later that day. They passed along their congratulations and offered their wisdom, expressing gratitude for what PNWU had done for them and the excitement for the potential it had to do so much for so many others.  

As the sun set over Bale Breaker, the families of the Class of 2012 gathered together again to say goodbye to their fellow alums, expressing excitement for future alumni events, including the five-year reunion of the Class of 2013, set for next year. Their experiences at PNWU had shaped their lives and awarded them an opportunity to achieve their goals of providing quality healthcare to the rural and underserved populations throughout the Northwest, and as they once again parted ways, it was clear that they could not wait to witness the future opportunities the University would create.