Investing in the mission

The mission of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) is to educate students from diverse backgrounds as lifelong learners  in osteopathic medicine and complementary health related programs; to support and develop graduate medical education training; to advance scientific knowledge through academic, clinical and basic science research; and to promote patient-centered, evidence based medicine. WVSOM is dedicated to serve, first and foremost, the state of West Virginia and the health care needs of its residents, emphasizing primary care in rural areas.

More than just words, a mission represents the underlying values of an institution. It is often a test for strength of purpose — the foundation on which a plan is developed — building constantly toward excellence and implemented in day-to-day operations.

While the mission of WVSOM may play an overarching role, each piece of it works synergistically to obtain the best outcome. So whether it’s faculty or preceptors educating students, research opportunities, the president’s vision, or even outreach programs dedicated to benefit West Virginians, it all leads back to one vision, for one medical school, in one small town in one of the smallest states in the country striving to create a meaningful impact in health care for our residents. 

Investing in Students

The very first component of WVSOM’s mission is to educate students from diverse backgrounds as lifelong learners in osteopathic medicine. While it’s clear that the basis of a student’s education is gained on campus through a patient presentation curriculum, it is only the beginning of a student’s medical education.

Building upon knowledge gained in the classroom through a team-based learning philosophy, students are able to apply that knowledge through hands-on learning experiences at hospitals and clinics during their third- and fourth-year rotations in WVSOM’s Statewide Campus (SWC) system. 

The system consists of seven regions across the state where third- and fourth-year medical students fulfill their clinical rotations in participating West Virginia hospitals and some in neighboring states. This unique approach to teaching is geared toward an enhanced curriculum that encourages students to practice in West Virginia when they graduate.  Each regional campus site provides structured programs for students through small group interactions, lectures and clinical cases. 

The program has garnered  899 clinical faculty and 2,335 preceptors (physician teachers) — about 1,000 of which  are in West Virginia — who provide a stronger infrastructure for clinical and postgraduate 
training throughout the state. Physicians, taking on the role of preceptors, hold the responsibility of educating WVSOM students as lifelong learners in osteopathic medicine, and essentially support their transition from students to physicians. Robert Snuffer, D.O., WVSOM Class  of 2001, has been a preceptor about 15 years. 

“I just like teaching,” Snuffer said of his decision to become a preceptor. “A large part of it is you can’t learn to be a doctor if you don’t do things doctors do.” He admits that having student doctors in his town clinic can take longer during the day, but medical students aren’t going to learn how to be good physicians by just watching doctors. 

“It does slow you down a bit, but in order to fulfill the commitment you made it is important to allow students to work with your patients. You have to be the one to create that environment. I don’t think students can simply stand on the side and watch over and over again to learn how to be a doctor. You have to place a patient in their care, have them treat the patient and suggest a protocol and then review their work to make sure they are doing everything right,” he said. “We must give students the opportunity to hold instruments and set up procedures — put your hands on their hands.”

Herbert Oye, D.O., believes in WVSOM’s mission enough to invest his time as a preceptor. Although he isn’t a WVSOM graduate, he has been mentoring medical students at the West Virginia Vascular Institute in Beckley since he moved to West Virginia more than 20 years ago. He received his medical degree at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in 1991 and specializes in endovascular and vascular surgery. “It’s been my passion since I moved to West Virginia to further the educational experiences of medical students and over the years I found that the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine is a good ally in that process,” the physician said.

Not only does Oye think so highly of WVSOM to be a preceptor for two decades, but he currently has four children who are students in each class year at the school. His daughter Monique is a fourth-year, Michelle is a third-year, Melissa is a second-year student and David finished his first semester as a WVSOM student.

Oye jokes that he “should get a discount,” but in all seriousness, said his family has been fortunate to live in West Virginia. “I started my work in West Virginia not knowing anybody here. My interest in training students in rural medicine and rural surgery kept me here and now my children can get a great education at this institution. We feel privileged they want to stay close to home and hopefully that means they will stay in West Virginia or Appalachia,” Oye said. 

Encouraging graduates to practice in West Virginia is one of the main goals of the Statewide Campus program. Dimitri Tito, a second-year student who will be graduating in 2020, understands the importance of becoming a physician in rural or underserved areas. 

Tito is a native of Cameroon, a province in Central Africa, and moved to the U.S. when he was about 16 years old. He said that he understands that the Appalachian region is a largely underserved population, much like his native country.

“I grew up in a small city where there wasn’t much access to medical resources,” Tito said. “I think there are a lot of similarities between where I grew up and this area. WVSOM is No. 1 in rural medicine and is one of the top schools in primary care and that’s what I want to go into.”

During Tito's third year, the Class of 2020 president will rotate in Petersburg, W.Va., which is in the Eastern Region of the Statewide Campus system. He chose this more rural site because of his involvement with the Rural Health Initiative program, which is designed to help enhance the rural and underserved primary care curriculum at WVSOM in order to produce graduates  qualified to practice medicine in those communities. 

Investing in Graduates

In order to produce qualified graduates and practicing physicians, WVSOM is committed to supporting and developing graduate medical education training for its students who will become highly skilled residents vying for competitive and selective residency spots in the future. 

WVSOM’s Graduate Medical Education (GME) department is responsible for the academic and accreditation oversight and support of postdoctoral training programs through the Mountain State Osteopathic Postdoctoral Training Institutions, Inc. (MSOPTI).  

MSOPTI sponsors both American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredited postdoctoral training programs. These programs are based in hospitals throughout West Virginia and the surrounding region and also include two Teaching Health Centers, which emphasize primary care residency training in an ambulatory setting. MSOPTI, which is a nonprofit education corporation, is afforded educational and operational support through WVSOM and its partner training sites. The GME department is also responsible for the development of new residency and fellowship programs and assists medical students as they pursue postdoctoral opportunities.

The Graduate Medical Education department benefits students by providing:

  •  Student consultation on postdoctoral opportunities and procedures
  • Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) coordination
  •  Match participation — for osteopathic medical students pursuing D.O. and dual-accredited postdoctoral programs and the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) for medical students pursuing ACGME, or allopathic programs

Vicki Shuman, D.O., is the associate dean for Graduate Medical Education. One of her roles is that of an academic counselor — assisting students with the application process for residencies and ensuring students’ curriculum vitaes and personal statements are up to par with what is expected when applying to residency programs. Third- and fourth-year students often make the most of GME’s services, through scheduled education days that detail the process of how to obtain a match and secure a residency after graduation. 

Shuman said that the student services provided by GME and resident services provided by MSOPTI overlap to arrive at a seamless transition from student to resident. MSOPTI, along with its partner training institutions, ensures that training occurs in a positive, responsive learning environment that is designed to encourage lifelong learning and the honing of professional skills.

The WVSOM mission directly correlates with the MSOPTI mission, according to Bill Shires, MSOPTI executive director and ACGME designated institutional official (DIO). It includes providing “resources for training future physicians to better serve the nation’s health care needs, with a focus on primary care and osteopathic recognition for the state of West Virginia and surrounding region.”

“The postdoctoral landscape has changed significantly in a short period of time,” Shires said. In February 2014, the AOA and American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) agreed to a memorandum of understanding with the ACGME that outlined a single graduate medical education accreditation system. The new system allows osteopathic and allopathic medical school graduates to complete their residencies and fellowships in ACGME-accredited programs. Beginning in 2015, AOA-accredited training programs have five years to transition to ACGME accreditation. The AOA will no longer accredit postdoctoral training programs after 2020.

Shires said that the GME department has been busy assisting its AOA programs through the ACGME application and site review process. All but two of its residency programs have achieved ACGME initial accreditation and those two are expected to achieve it this year. MSOPTI’s dual accredited programs are already ACGME accredited 
and do not need to go through this process. According to Shuman, “In addition to maintaining consistency of training, eliminating duplication and promoting efficiencies, the new system should afford our graduates increased training opportunities.”    

While there may be more training opportunities, the competition for postdoctoral training positions will be greater, according to Shuman. There will be more qualified candidates entering residencies in clinics and hospitals.   

“We want to make sure that no student or resident in the osteopathic world is caught in this transition to their detriment, so our message to our students is you have to cross all your T's and dot all your I's,” she said. 

It also means reiterating the importance of the residency application process for students, like Dimitri Tito, who will be graduating in 2020 — the first year residencies will be impacted.   

“Our programs are most often primary care, which supports the school’s mission and will allow us to continue to be attractive to students.”  According to Shires, “All MSOPTI sponsored training programs are in the process of obtaining ACGME osteopathic recognition, a designation that ensures osteopathic resources and training will continue into the future.”

Investing in Research

MSOPTI hosts an annual  Research Day in January  for residents who work  closely with faculty on a variety of health care topics. But long before they become residents, students — under the guidance 
of WVSOM faculty— have the opportunity to expand their scientific knowledge through academic, clinical and basic science research.  

Interest in research among WVSOM students has increased in recent years, likely due to residencies becoming more competitive. “One of the reasons we encourage medical students to do research 
is because we’re relying on these students to advance health care in the future and we want them to always look for ways of doing things differently to improve patient care,” said Kristie Bridges, Ph.D., who has been the director of student research since July. 

Research falls under WVSOM’s Office of Affiliated and Sponsored Programs (OASP), which supports faculty, students and staff with preparation and management of research and grant projects. 
Bridges said the goal is to match as many students with research projects as possible, whether that means participating in research on campus or at external sites, possibly with preceptors. 

“WVSOM is committed to developing new opportunities for research and other scholarly activity,” she said. “Recent initiatives have included expanding our clinical translational research and increasing the number of quality improvement projects. These initiatives are driven by strong partnerships between clinicians and biomedical scientists.”

Although overall research output is at its highest in the history of the school, WVSOM continues to look for additional opportunities to  
grow in this area.

WVSOM continues its commitment to advancing scientific knowledge through research by designating a building on campus as a new facility mostly used for clinical and translational research. 

The facility is referred to as the Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC). One of the labs in the CTSC was recently moved there from the Fredric W. Smith Science building. In this newly located research space, the Principle Investigator, Jandy Hanna, Ph.D., studies human movement through the use of motion analysis. The location of her lab in the CTSC freed up space in the science building. Upgrading labs in the science building is a current and ongoing commitment in order to accommodate the needs of WVSOM’s biomedical scientists. In addition to permitting for more bench research space in the Smith Science Building, the CTSC has four newly renovated clinical exam and research rooms for use in clinical and translational projects.

WVSOM is seeing more clinical faculty getting involved in these projects. For example, Carolyn Komar, Ph.D., Laurie Bauer, D.O., and Andrea Nazar, D.O., are completing a clinical project that assesses factors that may influence bone density and therefore the risk of developing osteoporosis.

“This really helps with our space needs,” said WVSOM Associate Professor Predrag Krajacic, M.D., who heads the research committee. “It allows greater flexibility for our researchers to access lab space.”
One of the recent upgrades was designating a shared equipment room on the first floor of the Fredric W. Smith Science Building. Several new pieces of equipment were purchased to support research projects, including two new -80˚C freezers  equipped with emergency backup CO2 tanks and a new ultrapure water purification system. On the second floor, an old darkroom was remodeled and equipped with a new scanning fluorescent microscope that is used for both academic and research purposes.

“By buying the new APERIO microscope we covered two aspects of the mission,” Krajacic said. “It provides academic support for students through its histology module used heavily in the curriculum. At the same time, it provides our researchers with a brand new piece of equipment that, in addition to automated fluorescent imaging, has an integrated deconvolution module required for visualizing discrete cellular components.”Investing in the tools and facilities needed for research projects is an ongoing effort, Krajacic said, but he finds it encouraging that WVSOM is continuing to show a strong commitment to providing research faculty with the necessary equipment for their success.

Date Added: 
Monday, June 18, 2018