Clovis celebrates first CHSU-COM graduation

The inaugural graduates pose with John Graneto, DO, MEd, Dean of CHSI-COM. (Photo CHSU)

May 19, 2024 — In a milestone moment for both the city of Clovis and California Health Sciences University College of Osteopathic Medicine (CHSU-COM), the institution celebrated the graduation of its inaugural class of 2024.

This historic event, held at Fresno State’s Save Mart Center, marked the culmination of a journey that began in 2020 when the college opened its doors with a vision to address the healthcare needs of the Central Valley.

As the Fresno State Jazz Combo set the mood with some wonderful soft jazz, friends and family took their seats. The Vocal Chords, an a cappella group composed of CHSU medical students and students from Clovis Community College and conducted by their founder and inaugural graduate Ronald Llenado, DO, opened the ceremonies with a powerful performance of the national anthem.

Florence T. Dunn receives an honorary doctorate. (Photo CHSU)

Florence T. Dunn, Founding President of CHSU-COM, delivered a heartfelt “President’s Welcome” speech, commending the students’ “unwavering determination” and expressing her confidence in their ability to “transform healthcare in our region.

During the ceremony, Dunn was honored with an honorary doctorate in recognition of her efforts and contributions. John Graneto, DO, MEd, Dean of CHSU-COM, expressed his gratitude to Fresno State and President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval for their hospitality in helping them host their first graduation.

 The commencement speaker, Teresa A. Hubka, DO, President-Elect of the American Osteopathic Association, acknowledged the unique hardships faced by this inaugural class, especially those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “An experience unlike any other in the history of medical education,” she noted as she showered praise on the class of 2024.

Laura Janet Gutierrez-Rivera, DO, receives her diploma from John Graneto, DO, MEd, Dean of CHSU-COM. (Photo CHSU)

Among the sixty-six graduates and the thirty-four percent staying local was Laura Janet Gutierrez-Rivera, DO, the winner of the CHSU Proud Award, who shared her journey and aspirations in a pre-graduation interview. Inspired by a profound commitment to helping all patients, regardless of their background, Laura chose emergency medicine as her specialty. “It’s the perfect environment for me,” she said with certainty.

Laura’s journey was shaped by personal and professional challenges, making her story all the more compelling. “I’m the first in my family to even graduate high school,” she said, beaming with pride. Her residency at Kaweah Delta Visalia allows her to stay close to her home in Tulare, fulfilling a deep-rooted desire to serve her community. “It feels incredible,” she said. “I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this.”

Laura’s story is a testament to the mission of CHSU-COM, which aims to recruit, train, and retain physicians to serve the Central Valley, especially its underserved populations. A mission they are succeeding in with over sixty-five percent of graduates pursuing primary care, a medical specialty that has a significant physician shortage. “Overall, I think that they prepared me very well. I think anyone would agree because when you compared us to other students on rotation, I think we always shined a little bit brighter,” she explained with confidence in her voice.

The ceremony was filled with moments of familial pride and support. Cheers of “That’s my son!” and “Josh, you’re so handsome!” rang out as Joshua Jordan Garcia, DO, a Dean’s List and honors graduate, crossed the stage. Similar enthusiastic exclamations were heard for Angad Mann, DO, from Clovis and Jeffrey Storm, DO, whose family encouraged him with a spirited “Unleash the storm!” Hayley Vietti, DO, received a loving acknowledgment with someone shouting, “That’s the valedictorian!” as she made her way across the stage.

 As the graduates recited the osteopathic oath led by Lisa Chun, DO, Associate Dean and Professor, it was clear that these new doctors are more than ready to step into their roles as healers and leaders. “Congratulations to my fellow physicians,” Dr. Graneto proclaimed, encapsulating the earned reverence of the new doctors sitting before him.

With this first class of graduates receiving 100 percent residency placement, CHSU-COM has not only made history but has also set a high standard for future classes. Laura Janet Gutierrez-Rivera stands out as a shining example, embodying the spirit of local dedication and excellence the institution strives to instill in all its students. Her choice to remain in the Central Valley underscores the success of CHSU-COM’s vision and serves as an inspiring takeaway for the next generation of local students following in her footsteps.