Retired Surgeon Creates Endowment for Faculty-Student Chemistry Research

Semi-retired surgeon Ron Worland, M.D., believes that supporting SOU is an investment in the entire southern Oregon region. “This is our university and our community. It is important to support the students because that will benefit every one of us,” said Worland. Ron and his wife Lou created an endowment for student-faculty research and enabled the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment.

“The department is really something to be proud of,” said Worland. “Some time ago, we had a tour of the chemistry department, and it was remarkable. It makes us feel good to help support such a thriving department.”

Accredited by the American Chemical Society, the chemistry program has a long-held reputation for being a strong program with a rigorous, hands-on curriculum. In fact, undergraduates at SOU are given the opportunity to work with equipment that is generally reserved for graduate students at larger, elite schools. This one element sets the SOU chemistry program apart and creates a pathway for student success early.

Both Ron and Lou have backgrounds in science; Lou’s is in microbiology. The Worlands met at the University of Rochester where Ron was in medical school and Lou in microbiology research. It was not in the lab where their first meeting took place, however, it was at a dinner party hosted by Ron’s eventual professor of plastic surgery. Lou continued her microbiology research at UCLA where Ron completed his general surgery residency before completing training in plastic surgery back at the University of Rochester, New York.

Ron and Lou were moved to support SOU’s chemistry program after a presentation by program chair Hala Schepmann, Ph.D. “We were really impressed with the department, their research, and the relationships with the professors and students,” said Worland. “Lou and I want to support anything that helps people go into medicine and be successful. SOU’s program offers a good foundation for students interested in medical school and so many other careers.”

Worland has seen first-hand the quality research conducted by students during the program’s summer ChemRx Program. “I saw some of the students present their research on the Almeda Fire for their summer project. It was impressive to see that they utilized some of the instruments we helped to purchase,” said Worland.

Giving to SOU has a ripple effect throughout the area, according to Worland. “A large number of people who work in our hospitals or local clinics have had their training at either SOU or OIT, so it is important to support the institutions our people are training in,” said Worland, who has served on the SOU Foundation Board of Trustees since 1999.

SOU students are the leaders of the future, said Worland. “There’s more to life than being a passenger,” he said, quoting Amelia Earhart. “These students aren’t passengers, they are working hard and we all will benefit from it. Their work will change people’s lives.”