Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine: A Place where Students Learn to Heal the Body, Mind, and Spirit

“To prepare globally-minded, community-focused physicians to meet the needs of rural and medically underserved populations and promote research to improve human health.”

For a long time now, rural areas have faced medical care shortages. The problem is that there are too few healthcare professionals and it is hindering the patient care in rural areas, especially southwest Virginia and the larger Appalachian region. With very few physicians being produced by the existing schools in this geographical area, this shortage would continue to grow. After studying the healthcare needs of Virginia, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) emerged with a vision of bringing sufficient care to the underserved medical areas of the United States.

VCOM is a private, non-profit charitable organization having three campuses in areas that are medically underserved. The cornerstone of the College is its first campus, located in the U.S. state where the Founder of osteopathy and osteopathic medicine, Andrew Taylor Still, was born ─ Virginia. This campus is located in Blacksburg, Virginia, at the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. The second campus is nestled at the edge of a beautiful historic downtown and home of several colleges ─ Spartanburg, South Carolina; while the third one is situated in the historic college-town of Auburn, Alabama. VCOM is among the top ten most affordable private medical schools in the U.S.

VCOM provides academic courses in osteopathic medicine. According to the philosophy of osteopathy, given the optimum conditions, the human body has the amazing ability to heal, its structure relating to its function, and the health of an individual is related to the body, mind, and spirit. VCOM has a dynamic, systems-integrated, curriculum to offer that includes lectures, multiple laboratory experiences, human simulation, on-line independent learning experiences, and early clinical experiences. The graduates from this college are licensed in every state to practice the full scope of medicine and surgery. With its three campuses, VCOM works to provide doctors that will meet the healthcare needs of Appalachia and the southern U.S.

The President’s Corner

President and Provost, Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, DO, Fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians (FACOFP), has successfully led VCOM through enormous amounts of growth. She became the founding dean and principal academic administrator of the first VCOM campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, in the year 2001. Since then, she has led the establishment of the two branch campuses in the Carolinas and Auburn. She maintains providing quality education for future physicians and continues fulfilling the College’s mission to meet the needs of rural and medically underserved populations.

“VCOM’s mission appeals to students who are seeking to make a difference, even while in medical school. With 46% of our students coming from communities of less than 30,000 people, we graduate students who are more likely to return to rural and medically underserved areas,” said Dr. Tooke-Rawlins. “In addition, the College is fourth in the nation for enrollment of all medical schools for Hispanic students, and was ranked third for African American enrollment by U.S. News and World Report.

She received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018 from the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, an award dedicated to outstanding individuals who have demonstrated career-long service to patients and osteopathic family medicine.

Mark of Honor

Ronna D. New, DO, FACOFP, VCOM-Virginia Class of 2007, is a leader in national osteopathic family medicine. She continues to serve on the VCOM Alumni Association Board as past president. She is one of the many VCOM graduates who are helping to educate the next generation of physicians. In her career, Dr. New has served as Program Director of the first Family Medicine Residency Program at Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon, Virginia, and has been responsible for overseeing the program’s development, curriculum, and clinical training. She is now at HMG Geriatric Medicine in Bristol, Virginia, and serves as the only board certified Geriatrician of the region, treating patients that are aged over 65. Dr. New serves as an outstanding example of the 2,600 physicians who have graduated from VCOM – she is living the mission to bring care to rural and medically underserved areas in the U.S.

Scholarly Courses and Accreditations

VCOM offers a four-year Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. In partnership with Bluefield College, VCOM also offers a Master of Arts in Biomedical Sciences program that allows students to focus on human medicine and clinical applications while earning a master’s degree in one year. This program can be used as a stepping-stone to other medical education programs and features the ability for qualified students to gain admittance to VCOM’s DO program.

VCOM is accredited through the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) of the AOA, which is the only accrediting agency for pre-doctoral osteopathic medical education and is recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE). In addition to this, it has accreditations from State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, University of North Carolina, Alabama Commission on Higher Education, and Alabama Department on Postsecondary Education.

Pragmatic Learning Experience and Research Facilities

VCOM leads the way with its simulation-based learning. The College’s investment in simulation technology is an investment in students and their future patients. Giving students the opportunity and hands-on education they need before ever interacting with a patient, improves the skills of future doctors, while improving the safety and comfort of future patients. VCOM also maintains a robust standardized patient program to educate students using actors, trained to portray a clinical case. This program helps students to understand real-life patient interactions.

VCOM ensures that its students are exposed to as many aspects of the medical fields as possible through clinical rotations during their third and fourth years. Working closely with clinical faculty members, students are able to interact with patients and see medical specialties up-close.

VCOM has also collaborated with Auburn University and Virginia Tech to provide students with research opportunities. Whether in the lab or in the field, students can have a hand in developing breakthroughs on a number of topics from cancer genomics to concussion research.

Illustrious Alumni

VCOM has proudly produced over 2,600 physicians since its first class graduated in 2007. The College was ranked second in the nation for graduates receiving first choice of residency, by U.S. News and World Report in 2018. Successfully accomplishing VCOM’s mission of producing physicians to return to rural and medically underserved areas, over 66% of its alumni are practitioners or residents in an Appalachian state.

VCOM students are leaders in the medical school community, both at VCOM and on the national level. Katherine Kirby, DO, VCOM-Virginia Class of 2018, was presented the American Osteopathic Association’s Presidential Memorial Leadership Award. She was honored for her dedication in leading her fellow students. Dr. Kirby served as the Student Osteopathic Medicine Association’s (SOMA) national public relations director and as the SOMA Foundation’s national chairperson. Dr. Kirby worked hard to bring awareness to the osteopathic community.

Compelling Events

Throughout the year, VCOM holds several events to bring students together outside of the classroom. Hospital Day is held for students to meet with representatives from prospective clinical sites to talk about post-graduation residency plans. It also allows many residency programs to bring in familiar faces, with many VCOM alumni coming to answer students’ questions. VCOM’s Annual Via Research Recognition Day showcases students, faculty, and researchers throughout the region. VCOM invites various keynote speakers to deliver brand-new knowledge in their fields for the attendees.

VCOM’s Student Clubs

Many different clubs and organizations at VCOM serve to pique students’ interests in all aspects of medicine. Students can find an organization that will allow them to have an in-depth look in a particular specialty, sub-field, or interest group. There are groups such as the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) and Student Osteopathic Surgical Association (SOSA) that attract large numbers of interested students to gather outside of classroom time to learn more. Moreover, there are niche organizations, such as the Wilderness Committee, that let students look at the topics that are relevant to their interests and fields of medicine they would like to pursue.

Financial Aids and Scholarships

At VCOM, the financial well-being of the students is important and its Financial Aid office works to guide its students throughout their medical education. Financial aid that include loans, scholarships, and grants are made available to qualified students to assist in paying for expenses, which are directly related to the cost of their medical education. VCOM offers the following financial aid and resources: Scholarship information and resources; Federal loans through the Direct Loan Program, which includes Direct Unsubsidized and Graduate PLUS loans; Private (Alternate) loans obtained through lending agencies; and Information on Loan Repayment Programs.

Medical Outreach Programs and Rural Partnerships

VCOM has clinical partners in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and El Salvador where students are encouraged to experience medical outreach trips at year-round medical clinics. These trips not only let students have relevant hands-on experiences in underserved areas, but they also provide much needed healthcare to people that would otherwise not receive it. VCOM also provides students the option to go on a month-long rotation at one of these international sites. Supporting weekly Appalachian and underserved community medical outreach programs provides all the students a chance to serve the local communities in their region, bringing them closer to VCOM’s mission.

VCOM also has many rural health partnerships. The Virginia campus has the Virginia Rural Health Resource Center, The Virginia Rural Health Association (VHRA), and the Council for Rural Virginia. These partnerships have successfully pooled in resources and enabled collaborations for improving the health of Virginians and those in rural medically underserved areas.

‘Words of Trust’

“I chose VCOM because I could personally relate to its mission and goals. As a child, I witnessed first-hand the disparities in healthcare that existed among those of lower socioeconomic standing. These experiences had a lasting impact and are a large part of what prompted me to pursue medicine. VCOM’s commitment to the underserved and its drive to provide affordable and accessible healthcare made it a perfect fit for me.”– Trellanie Jones, VCOM-Carolinas Class of 2021.

“I wholeheartedly believe in VCOM’s mission to medically serve the local and international underserved communities. These values have always resonated with me because I grew up in a third-world country, where I have seen firsthand the horrors that affect families and communities with inaccessible healthcare. Growing up in this environment has caused me to fully understand the need for compassionate, quality healthcare for those in need.”– Daniel Casas, VCOM-Auburn Class of 2019.

“VCOM works directly in communities that have no other accessible health services and makes a world of difference in their lives. It was an honor to be able to attend one of these trips and work to provide care and education for these individuals. The time I spent in Honduras through VCOM’s outreach program strongly reinforced my desire to be involved in international missions as a physician.– Pahl Pappas, VCOM-Virginia Class of 2020.

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