Alumna exemplifies WVSOM mission

Jessica Smith-Kelly, D.O. is a good role model of the type of graduate WVSOM aspires to educate. 

The Class of 2012 graduate entered WVSOM as an out-of-state student, became a graduate teaching assistant in osteopathic principles and practice (OPP), secured a residency spot in primary care and has since returned to Lewisburg to practice medicine and teach WVSOM students. 

“I knew that I wanted to teach osteopathic manipulation in a school setting, so when I was nearing the end of my residency I was applying for Plus One residency and they were getting ready to start one here. I found out that WVSOM was going to have an opening for OPP faculty. I thought, ‘well that’s kind of my dream job,’ so I applied,” Smith-Kelly said. 

Her 10-year, long-term plan for herself was expedited once she completed her Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine/Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine Plus One (NMM/OMM +1) residency at Greenbrier Valley Medical Center. Smith-Kelly has been a faculty member at WVSOM for a little more than a year. She said that her work as a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) in her third and fourth year of studies helped solidify the decision to eventually become a teacher. 

“Before, I never thought I would want to teach,” the internal medicine and osteopathic manipulative medicine physician said. “When I was a GTA I may not have been able to explain techniques well, but I could say ‘put your hands here’ and I could explain techniques through palpation and sensation. Seeing students finally get a concept and having that light bulb go off was very rewarding. It made me start  to think that I really liked the teaching aspect.”

Smith-Kelly said that being completely hands-on in terms of explaining OPP to students is the best way she knows to encourage students to integrate the skill in everyday practice. 

“I love osteopathic manipulation. I use it pretty much every single day in my own practice. To have such an awesome tool that we learn as part of our training — I think everybody should get the opportunity to learn it to the best of their ability.

“I’ve had students say to me, ‘wow you just had a patient with high blood pressure and sinuses and you were able to do manipulation.’ I think when people realize they can become proficient enough with their hands to be able to incorporate OMT in a practice they’re more willing to use it  and more willing to practice it,” She said.

“I try to remind students that they have this extra skillset, where it doesn’t matter what field they’re going into, but they can find a way to utilize it pretty easily for themselves.”

The Colorado native is the first to admit that she oftentimes has a somewhat unconventional way of performing OMT techniques. She relies mostly on what her hands tell her. She also has to adjust techniques that are more difficult to execute based on her height. 

“Once you have a basic understanding of the mechanics of how the body works you can utilize that in how you see fit. Using those skills you have with your hands and being able to think, ‘this doesn’t feel right,’ can tell you a lot,” she explained. “I’m also a little shorter so I’ve had to modify a few techniques to be able to perform them. You have to do that sometimes so you don’t hurt yourself. If you’re seeing positive benefits and the patients are getting better then that’s the ultimate end goal.”

Smith-Kelly’s patients must be satisfied with the care they receive at her office in the Robert C. Byrd Clinic in Lewisburg because she has an approximate three-month wait time. She takes special care to thoroughly explain the techniques she is performing, what patients can expect to feel and what they can expect from the OMT session. 

“Sometimes people come in with expectations that we’re going to make their pain go completely away and that’s unrealistic, so I try to explain to them what results they can expect to see,” she said. “Ultimately I do this because I love it and because it makes people feel better. So if patients are seeing results and are willing to wait for a provider who can perform OMT then I think that speaks more to the profession. It’s a service that I think patients appreciate.” 

Whether Smith-Kelly is busy teaching osteopathic medical students or educating patients about techniques that can help reduce their pain, she is always using her hands as the main tool — proving that being a 10-fingered D.O. is exactly the type of physician who WVSOM hopes to graduate.


Date Added: 
Monday, July 2, 2018