On Saturday, May 6, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) in Blacksburg celebrated the graduation of 173 new physicians. After four years of study, these physicians have completed their Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degrees and will now go on to residencies across the nation.
This is not the first time these students have experienced a commencement ceremony, but this one was particularly meaningful, in part because their experiences at VCOM were so deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit just as they were finishing their first year. Despite the challenges—or perhaps because of them—the Class of 2023 is one of VCOM’s best, with significant academic achievements and high test scores.
The class was addressed by Martin Levine, DO, FACOFP-distinguished. Dr. Levine, an accomplished physician, educator and leader, serves as VCOM’s vice provost for graduate medical education. In that role, he facilitates the development of residencies and other graduate medical opportunities for students across VCOM’s four campuses. In his remarks, he reminded the new physicians to focus on their patients, who are the most important people in the room. “The doctor-patient relationship is sacred,” he said. “Use that relationship to improve the health of the patients you see and the communities where you live and work. Engage in conversation with your patients. Don’t rush. Show empathy.”
VCOM’s mission is to provide physicians to provide physicians to meet the needs of rural and medically underserved populations in the Southeast United States, with a focus on communities in the Appalachian and Delta regions of the country, many of which have a pronounced need for primary care practitioners. This class significantly advances that mission.
More than 55% of the VCOM-Virginia Class of 2023 come from Virginia. For their residencies, they will head to 30 different states, with 59 members of the class staying in Virginia. More than 75% will be in an Appalachian state and 44% will head to an underserved community. More than 69% will continue their training in primary care, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. Other specialties represented by the class include emergency medicine, psychiatry, neurology and anesthesiology, among others. Throughout their careers, these accomplished and talented new physicians will have millions of patient encounters and they were reminded to take the mission of VCOM and the philosophy of osteopathic medicine to every single one.
Military service is also a hallmark of the VCOM experience, evidenced by the high percentage of VCOM alumni who go on to serve in the United States military. More than 365 VCOM alumni across the College’s four campuses have or will serve in the armed forces, including 13 members of the VCOM-Virginia Class of 2023, who received military promotions on Friday, May 5.
Osteopathic physicians (DOs) are fully trained and licensed and are qualified to practice the full scope of medicine, including examining patients, diagnosing illness, performing surgery, and writing prescriptions. Further, they practice the entire range of medical specialties, from anesthesiology to surgery and everything in between. They take a whole-person approach, considering a patient’s body, mind and spirit when delivering care.
By Amy Ostroth