Shortage of Rural Physicians
The decision to establish the College was made after the leaders of the Harvey W. Peters Research Foundation and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) studied the health care needs of Virginia. That study revealed that the southside and southwest geographical areas of Virginia had an extreme health care shortage, with 30 counties considered to have critical shortages (HPSA) designations and greater than 70 having medically underserved areas (MUAs). The three existing medical schools in Virginia, being located in the eastern half of the state, were producing a relatively small number of primary care physicians or physicians for southwest Virginia. Moreover, few graduates chose primary care. It was evident from the study that the health care shortage in Virginia would continue to grow. In addition, a 2002 national study, reported initially in Health Affairs, estimated a shortage of 50,000 physicians by 2010 and shortage of more than 100,000 physicians by 2020. The need was evident, and plans to establish the first College moved forward. John Rocovich, JD, LLM (Rector for VT at that time and President of the Harvey Peter’s Research Center) and Sue Ellen Rocovich, DO, PhD worked with Edward Via to establish the College in his name.
The Founding of the College
VCOM is a non-profit, private 501 c-3 charitable organization initially funded by several foundations that were established by the late Marion Bradley Via to benefit Virginia Tech and southwest Virginia. Marion Bradley's son, Edward Via, was the person instrumental in funding this initiative. John Rocovich JD, LLM and Sue Ellen Rocovich, DO, PhD were the individuals instrumental in founding the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, laying all the groundwork to establish the College. At the time of initial development, VCOM’s vision was to provide healthcare for southwest Virginia, Western North Carolina, and the Appalachian Region, and to promote biomedical research with Virginia Tech. In 2001, VCOM hired the founding President, James Wolfe, PhD (now retired emeritus) and the founding Executive Vice President and Dean, Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, DO (now President and Provost). This team of individuals developed the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in the Corporate Research Center of Virginia Tech including facility plans and building, academic program planning, accreditation approvals, and the hiring of the initial faculty and staff. The College opened its doors to the first students in fall of 2003 and graduated the first class in 2007.
VCOM's Founding Board of Directors included: William Anderson, DO; Neal Castagnoli, Jr, PhD; John A. Cifala, DO; Roy E. Heaton, DO; Mark G. McNamee, PhD; John G. Rocovich, Jr, JD, LLM, Chairman of the Board; Sue Ellen B. Rocovich, DO, PhD; Minnis Ridenhour, PhD; James F. Wolfe, PhD and the late, Eugene T. Zachary, DO
"The credit for the success of the founding of the first Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine belongs to more than the initial founders listed above. It also belongs to the first faculty and staff, the Board of Directors, the many supporters for their contributions, and most of all the first students (Class of 2007)."
Adding a Branch Campus in Spartanburg, South Carolina
In 2010, VCOM founded the Carolinas Campus of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Instrumental in founding the college was VCOM's Chairman of the Board John Rocovich, JD, LLM and the Board of Directors; Former President James Wolfe, PhD; and former Dean Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, DO (now serving as President and Provost); Vice Dean for the Carolinas Campus, Tim Kowalski, DO (now serving as Dean); then Spartanburg Regional Medical Center CEO, Ingo Angemieir; and Ron Januchowski, DO who now serves as the Associate Dean for Curriculum, Assessment and Education. Also contributing to this success were multiple community leaders including the mayor, local legislators, and community leaders. Licensure and accreditation approvals from the State and those granted by COCA began in 2010.
As a branch campus, the Carolinas Campus began as a fully accredited campus by COCA, which is the only accrediting agency for predoctoral osteopathic medical education, and is recognized by the United States Department of Education. COCA extended VCOM’s accreditation to the branch campus in 2010. VCOM is also appropriately licensed by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education and received initial licensure in 2010. The first class began in the fall of 2011.
Adding a Branch Campus in Auburn, Alabama
In 2011, Auburn University (AU) representatives were exploring a medical school. AU had recognized the abysmal health outcomes in the state and the extreme shortage of physicians (then 46th in the country for number of physicians per 100,000 population). The President of AU had visited each Alabama county and saw the extreme need for rural physicians and for primary care. The AU President and administration determined an osteopathic college would be best to fill this need. As the AU representatives explored options they visited the VCOM Virginia Campus. Recognizing the success of VCOM and Virginia Tech collaboration, they also visited the VCOM Carolinas Campus. AU then performed due diligence studies to explore either a new college of osteopathic medicine or a branch campus of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. In January 2012, the announcement was made internally that Auburn and VCOM would perform the due diligence needed to assure a VCOM branch campus would be a success and a public announcement followed when the due diligence was complete in August 2012. Instrumental in founding the Auburn branch campus was: VCOM's Chairman of the Board John Rocovich, JD, LLM and the Board of Directors; Former President James Wolfe, PhD; Founding Dean and now President and Provost Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, DO; Dean for the Auburn Campus, Elizabeth Palmarozzi, DO; Kenny Brock, PhD, Associate Dean for Biomedical Affairs; Gary Hill, DO; Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs; Tim Moore, PhD, Associate VP for Development, and Michael Goodlett, MD, the official AU medical school liaison. Also contributing to this success was Provost Tim Boosinger of Auburn University and Jimmy Sanford, President of the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation Board and member of the Board of Auburn University.
The new campus is in development in the Auburn University Research Park. Licensure and accreditation approvals from the State and the COCA began as early as 2013 and as a branch campus, the Auburn Campus was able to begin as a fully accredited campus by the COCA. To ready the clinical sites in the state for a full campus, VCOM began clinical training of current VCOM students from the southeast region (the majority from Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia) in the clinical sites in 2013. The training of this small number of students will help to ready the clinical sites for the initial class of 150 students who will begin in 2015 and who will begin their clinical training in 2017. VCOM is committed to excellence, to meeting each accreditation requirement along the way, and to developing a campus that AU, VCOM, and Alabama can be proud of.
History of Osteopathic Medicine
The history begins with the advent of osteopathy by Andrew Taylor Still MD, born a native of Virginia who moved to the Midwest region as a young man. In 1854, Dr. Still, then a practicing allopathic physician in Kansas, became increasingly dissatisfied with the medical practices of his day. He developed a new theory of medicine which he called osteopathy. He based his new approach to health care on the concepts of body unity, the body’s inherent ability to heal itself given all the optimum conditions, and on the proper alignment and function of the musculoskeletal system.
VCOM takes pride in being the College that brought the philosophies of Dr. Still back to Virginia. Over the past 100 years, the practice of allopathic medicine (MD) has evolved and so has the practice of osteopathic medicine. Today, doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) serve the public with full medical practice rights utilizing all of the modern practices science has to offer in medical and surgical care while incorporating the concept of treating the whole person throughout the training. Osteopathic (DO) and Allopathic (MD) residents train side by side in hospitals throughout the U.S.
While osteopathic physicians practice the most up to date evidence based medicine approaches to medical care, they maintain that the patient-centered interview and the hands-on examination (palpation) is an essential part of making a diagnosis. In addition to being able to offer all of the well-recognized pharmacologic and surgical treatments, osteopathic medicine offers a strong commitment to prevention and health maintenance as the first priority and offers an additional treatment of manipulative medicine as an important therapeutic tool that can utilized by osteopathic physicians in alleviating pain, treating illness or injury, and in many cases avoiding invasive surgeries to alleviate pain.