A Medical School in Rural Appalachia

Historical image of the WVSOM Main Building and quad when it was the Greenbrier Military Academy

A Medical School in Rural Appalachia

More than 50 years ago, a group of visionary medical pioneers recognized the need for doctors in West Virginia’s rural communities. WVSOM was founded as the private Greenbrier College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1972 by four osteopathic physicians — Carlton G. Apgar, D.O., O.J. Bailes, D.O., Donald C. Newell Sr., D.O., Frank Wallington, D.O. — under the leadership of Roland Sharp, D.O., the school’s first president, and with assistance from members of the West Virginia Society of Osteopathic Medicine.

Lewisburg Is Selected

Lewisburg, in Greenbrier County, W.Va., was selected as the site of the osteopathic medical school for its central location in the Appalachian region, its rural setting and the availability of a 43-acre campus that formerly housed the historic Greenbrier Military School. Lewisburg remains one the nation’s smallest medical school communities.

From Dream to Reality

Renovation of the Greenbrier Military School complex continued for two years before the school opened and accepted its first class of 36 osteopathic medical students in 1974. At the time, the campus consisted of three buildings. In January 1976, the Greenbrier College of Osteopathic Medicine was brought into the state system of higher education and was renamed the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.

The First Graduates; Class Expansion

WVSOM awarded 33 students Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degrees in 1978, marking the beginning of a new era of medical care for West Virginia. In the 1980s, WVSOM expanded its class size in response to physician shortages and a higher demand for D.O.s. By the late 1990s, the class size had increased to about 80 new osteopathic medical students annually.

The Campus Grows

In 1991, the Fredric W. Smith Science Building was the first new structure on campus since the school became a public institution. More buildings followed, including the Roland P. Sharp Alumni Conference Center, the Robert C. Byrd Clinic, and in the 2000s the Founders’ Activity Center (which houses WVSOM’s gym), the Admissions Center, the Center for Technology and Rural Medicine, the Clinical Evaluation Center (which serves as the headquarters for the school’s cutting-edge medical simulation programs) and the WVSOM Student Center.

The State’s Largest Medical School

Today, the Lewisburg campus encompasses 20 buildings, including a Testing Center which is in the midst of construction. The school has become one of Greenbrier County’s largest employers, with about 300 employees at any given time.

WVSOM now has a class size of more than 200 new students per year, for a total four-year enrollment of about 800 students. Outside of Lewisburg, WVSOM has a presence across West Virginia through its Statewide Campus, where students in their final two years of medical school complete clinical rotations. The osteopathic medical school has achieved and surpassed the vision of its founders, and it continues to grow as a leader in medical education, producing highly trained physicians for West Virginia, Appalachia and the nation.