WVSOM sets attendance record for event highlighting rural medicine

The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) hosted its 10th annual Rural Practice Day on Jan. 29. The event, which this year took place virtually due to challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, is a program of WVSOM’s Rural Health Initiative and aims to educate students about practicing medicine in rural areas — an integral part of the Lewisburg, W.Va.-based medical school’s mission.

Through a series of speeches and panels moderated by Bob Foster, D.O., WVSOM’s assistant dean for osteopathic medical education, Rural Practice Day brought together WVSOM alumni and West Virginia political and medical leaders to discuss the rewards and challenges of practicing medicine in rural and underserved locations. A total of 232 people attended the virtual event, marking the highest level of participation since Rural Practice Day began in 2012. WVSOM students and their guests made up 193 of the attendees.

Foster said the theme of this year’s event was “Keeping Rural Communities Healthy.”

“Rural Practice Day features WVSOM graduates who share their lives and journeys with current students and faculty, allowing the audience to hear how their soon-to-be-peers have struggled and succeeded,” Foster said. “It focuses on the intrinsic rewards and joy these physicians have in their lives as community servants to rural populations.”

In an introduction, James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., WVSOM’s president, told students that the school is the top producer in West Virginia, in Appalachia and in the U.S. of physicians who practice in rural areas. He recounted how WVSOM was founded to combat a shortage of physicians in the state.

“About 50 years ago, there were a group of D.O.s who looked around and said, ‘We’ve got a problem in West Virginia. We don’t have enough physicians in rural areas,’” Nemitz explained. “They moved ahead and created a school to address this issue, and against all odds, the school has become an incredible success, especially in the area of rural practice.”

In the event’s keynote speech, Tom Takubo, D.O., a WVSOM Class of 1999 alumnus and majority leader of the West Virginia state senate, told students that seeing the way patients live can be as illuminating as an office visit. He recalled how, while working as a paramedic, he walked a dirt road too rocky to be reached by ambulance to treat a pregnant teenager. To illustrate how rural physicians can have successful careers, Takubo, a pulmonologist, spoke about how he helped establish a lung center in South Charleston, W.Va., that has the ability to perform CT scans, X-rays and other lab work on-premises to more efficiently treat patients who have difficulty making multiple lengthy trips to the city.

Offering advice on how to succeed in improving patients’ lives, Tim Bess, MBA, CEO of Greenbrier Valley Medical Center in Ronceverte, W.Va., implored students to communicate closely with patients and their families, and to remember that all members of a hospital’s team — not just doctors — make valuable contributions to patient health and safety. He suggested that aspiring physicians ask themselves what “story” they hope will be told about them at the end of their career, and said completing that story requires compassion, integrity and a commitment to advocating for positive change.

The day’s final session was a physician panel featuring Jennifer Bailey, D.O., a pediatrician from WVSOM’s Class of 2010; Fredrick Morgan, D.O., an orthopedic surgeon from the Class of 1991; Faith Payne, D.O., a urologist from the Class of 2007; and Sasha Rihter, D.O., an emergency medicine physician from the Class of 2016. The group answered questions submitted by students, covering topics such as how a physician’s choice of specialty can affect opportunities to work within their community; the pros and cons of emergency medicine residencies in large hospitals versus smaller facilities; and ways physicians can use their passions as foundations on which to build medical careers.

Throughout Rural Practice Day, door prizes were awarded to participating students. Prizes included an iPad mini, a Blenko glass vase, a Brookstone Soaps Basket, tickets to tour the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, W.Va., a car organizer and cooler, a $100 Mastercard/Visa gift card, five $25 Amazon cards, and gift bags from AccessHealth and the WVSOM Foundation.

Date Added: 
Wednesday, February 10, 2021