The final founder: WVSOM’s last living founder passes away

The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine’s (WVSOM) last living founder, O.J. Bailes, D.O., passed away Aug. 10.

Bailes was one of four osteopathic physicians, along with Carlton Apgar, D.O., Don Newell Sr., D.O., and Frank Wallington, D.O., who founded the osteopathic medical school — then referred to as the Greenbrier College of Osteopathic Medicine — in 1972 on the campus of the former Greenbrier Military School.

The 95-year-old osteopathic physician had made a lifetime of contributions that helped move the profession forward, from his own career as a practicing physician to the founding of medical schools and his guidance in medical education.

“We are saddened that WVSOM’s last remaining founder is no longer with us,” WVSOM President James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., said. “Dr. Bailes was a loyal, passionate supporter of the school he helped to found. He will be remembered for his many contributions to the osteopathic medical profession and his dedicated service to the people of southern West Virginia.”

Nemitz recognized Bailes during the school’s graduation in May. Bailes attended WVSOM Commencement and Convocation and White Coat ceremonies frequently, representing the four founders and their vision.

“Dr. Bailes was instrumental in establishing the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine as well as other osteopathic medical schools,” Nemitz said during the ceremony. “Dr. Bailes, along with his devoted wife, Jean, have attended many graduation and white coat ceremonies held at WVSOM.”

John Manchin II, D.O., a member of the school’s first graduating class in 1978, recognized Bailes during his keynote speech at WVSOM’s Convocation and White Coat Ceremony two years ago.

“I have to pay tribute to our founders, and I’m reminded of a famous quote from Winston Churchill: ‘Never was so much owed by so many to so few.’ Please take the time to learn about these early founders of WVSOM — Dr. Apgar, Dr. Bailes, Dr. Wallington and Dr. Newell,” Manchin said to the students in that class.

Bailes and the three other WVSOM founders were determined to create a successful osteopathic medical school that would serve the rural areas of West Virginia. Bailes has shown his support of WVSOM in many ways, including contributing to the school’s Capital Campaign and attending continuing medical education seminars.

Bailes earned a degree from the Kansas City College of Osteopathy in 1952 and completed an internship at Lakeside Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. Shortly after the Nicholas County, W.Va., native became a physician, he began working at his retired in-laws’ practice. Jean and O.J. Bailes worked alongside one another for about 25 years — she ran the office while he saw patients — before he transitioned to medical education.

Osteopathic schools across the U.S. benefited from Bailes’ leadership and medical knowledge. He was a dean at the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in Pomona, Calif., where he worked for nearly a decade. He also offered guidance to students at the Ohio University of Osteopathic Medicine and Pikeville College of Osteopathic Medicine.

In the late 1980s, Bailes was awarded two honorary doctorates: a Doctor of Science from WVSOM and a Doctor of Humane Letters from the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific. In 2006, he was named the Osteopathic Physician of the Year by the West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association, formerly the West Virginia Society of Osteopathic Medicine. He was also honored by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) with induction into the AOA Mentor Hall of Fame in 2012 for his dedication and inspiration to other physicians.

Bailes’ accomplishments and accolades span more than 50 years. He has also provided medical care internationally, with medical trips to India and Bangladesh, where he taught osteopathic manipulation to physical therapists.

He spent the latter part of his career working with his colleague Jana Peters, D.O., a 1984 WVSOM graduate affiliated with Princeton Community Hospital, for more than 20 years before retiring a few years ago.

“I feel privileged, honored and blessed to have known him,” Peters said. “Dr. Bailes was my mentor, my colleague, but first and foremost he was my friend.”

Peters was also Bailes’ physician and was with him at his home when he passed. She recalls his quiet yet mischievous antics, even on his final day.

“I don’t think we ever spoke one nice word to each other until the past couple months. We picked on each other relentlessly,” she said. “I asked him on Saturday afternoon, ‘Can you tell me what’s wrong?’ and he joked, ‘You.’ He never lost his humor.”

It’s no secret to those who had the pleasure of knowing Bailes that he credited all his accomplishments to his wife, Jean. The couple, who were rarely ever seen apart, celebrated 73 years of marriage in May. They have two daughters, Cheryl Bredeaux and Suzy Fry; seven grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. Their son, Charles Jerrell, preceded him in death.

Bailes spent decades devoted to the osteopathic medical profession, both as a physician offering care in rural areas and as a visionary helping to found schools that would educate future physicians. And through it all he did it with a spry smile.

His funeral will take place at 2 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 17, at First United Methodist Church in Princeton, W.Va. Visitation will be from 12-2 p.m.

Date Added: 
Tuesday, August 13, 2019