Adjusting to the demands of medical school isn’t easy, but the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) works to ensure the success of its aspiring physicians from their first days on campus. In a roster of activities that began July 25, WVSOM welcomed approximately 200 students in its Class of 2026 for a week of orientation sessions that ranged from informational meetings to social events.
In a welcome session, James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., WVSOM’s president, pointed out that WVSOM is West Virginia’s largest medical school and acknowledged that the institution attracts students with a variety of professional goals.
“While we’re a leader in producing physicians for West Virginia, we’re in all 50 states and we’re in as many urban centers as rural centers,” Nemitz said. “Some of you have come here specifically to learn rural medicine, while others just want to become a physician. We’re a school that produces exceptional physicians for all areas, and we’re proud of that. Now, you’re a part of that legacy.”
In a session detailing the differences between college and medical school, Nemitz said that a medical education requires a higher volume of information than most people can comprehend, and that every class is important, because new subjects build on the foundation of knowledge acquired in previous courses.
“These years are going to fly by, because you’re going to be busy,” he said. “With medical education, you have to be all in. You can’t do this halfway. Don’t take anything for granted, and absorb all you can, because it won’t be long before you’re helping to deliver health care to real patients.”
During orientation week, new students also had the opportunity to meet with second-year students and ask questions about their experience at WVSOM. They participated in a lunch with faculty coaches, enjoyed a mentor-mentee cookout and attended a President’s Reception in which students and their families were invited to join administrators, faculty and staff in celebrating the start of the academic year.
Other activities included a welcome to Lewisburg by the city’s chief of police, Chris Teubert; a community resource fair in which area businesses and nonprofit organizations showcased their services; introductions to WVSOM programs such as the Rural Health Initiative and ASPIRE (Academic Support and Intervention Resources); and a discussion of the book Seven Signs of Life, by Aoife Abbey, a memoir that examines the highs and lows of an intensive care physician’s experiences with patients.
Orientation week closes with a Day of Service in which students assist in community service projects at various Greenbrier County locations by contributing physical labor.
During a keynote address on diversity, equity and inclusion among the campus community, Angela Alston, executive director of WVSOM’s Southeastern Area Health Education Center, said a commitment to educating students from diverse backgrounds is an integral part of the school’s mission.
“In order to fully achieve our mission, there must be collective and conscious work toward these principles, with a primary goal being to promote and ensure an inclusive and equitable academic campus experience for all students. Diversity is not just something that we do here at WVSOM, but who we are,” Alston said.
Predrag Krajacic, M.D., WVSOM’s assistant dean for curricular affairs, told students that while rigorous, the challenges of a medical education can be conquered through dedication and a willingness to work together. He said school administrators have worked to make the curriculum as manageable as possible, and that help is available for those who are struggling.
“Be assured that you are not alone here,” Krajacic said. “Your class is your biggest support system. Don’t be afraid to reach out to each other or to the faculty to say, ‘I need help.’ You don’t have to do things by yourself. That’s part of what being a physician is about.”
The incoming students will spend two years on WVSOM’s campus in Lewisburg before completing clinical rotations at health facilities throughout the school’s seven-region Statewide Campus system in their third and fourth years.