August 30, 2012
Auburn, AL - August 30, 2012 - The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia, will open a branch campus in the Auburn Research Park in Auburn, Alabama, officials announced today. The chairman and president of both the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, or VCOM, and the Chairman of the Board of Auburn Research and Technology Foundation, or ARTF, along with the Associate Vice Provost and Vice President for Research of Auburn University, signed an agreement establishing a branch campus and collaboration that will include faculty and student programs, biomedical research and healthcare projects. VCOM will build a new facility featuring classrooms, small-group learning rooms, laboratories and a technology center. The first class of 150 students is proposed for fall 2015.
“We’re excited to welcome the college to the Auburn Research Park,” said Jimmy Sanford, chair of ARTF. “VCOM is a well-respected institution that will provide opportunities for students to receive a medical education, support economic development, and open the door for more health science advancements by Auburn University faculty.” The Auburn Research Park is operated by ARTF as a partnership among the state of Alabama, Auburn University and the city of Auburn.
“Our goals for a new branch campus are to provide state-of-the-art medical education and research, and to train students to practice medicine in areas with the most need,” said VCOM Chairman John Rocovich.
In addition to the VCOM campus, the faculty will have access to Auburn facilities such as the MRI Research Center that houses a 7 Tesla, or 7T, research scanner, which is one of fewer than 35 in the world; and a 3T scanner, the most powerful certified for clinical use. They will have opportunities to collaborate with Auburn scientists and researchers in pharmacy, nursing, veterinary medicine, rural medicine, kinesiology, chemistry, biochemistry and other health-related fields. Students will also have access to Auburn University facilities and activities.
Mr. Thom Gossum, Jr., of the Auburn Foundation, was Master of Ceremonies at the event. Gossum reported the growing need for physicians in Alabama, saying, “the Alabama Department of Public Health reports 60 of Alabama's 67 counties do not have enough primary care providers, such as general practitioners, family doctors or pediatricians, and that rural parts of the state are the most medically underserved.”
Dr. Martin Levine, outgoing President of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), also spoke of the importance of osteopathic medicine and the impact the college would have on the citizens of Alabama, especially in addressing the primary care and rural health needs. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, Alabama ranks 43rd out of 50 states in the U.S. for physicians per 100,000 population.
Mr. Terry Andrus, President and Chief Executive Officer, East Alabama Medical Center in nearby Opelika, proposed his full support as the primary teaching hospital and affiliate of the branch campus. Wayne Smith, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Community Hospital System (representing over 135 hospitals with an aggregate of over 20,000 beds) gave his full support, assuring that students of the new campus would have access to the clinical training sites and residencies they will need. Also in attendance was the CEO of the nearby Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital, which will also provide clinical training for VCOM students.
Drs. James Andrews and Champ Baker, both nationally known sports medicine orthopedists who provide care for University and professional athletes, were in attendance. Dr. Andrews spoke and gave his full support of the new branch campus and what it would mean to the area and local sports medicine programs.
In addition to serving as a pipeline of primary care physicians for rural and medically underserved areas, VCOM supports programs that result in a large number of graduates commissioned as officers to serve in the U.S. military and to work in Veterans Administration hospitals around the country. Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess spoke on behalf of the U.S. Army regarding the need for military physicians and VCOM’s commitment to the armed forces. Also speaking was Airforce Major General Douglas Robb, D.O., who spoke about the needs of the military, the impact VCOM has made, and osteopathic medicine’s contribution to the military as recent increases show D.O.’s representing over 30% of military physicians.
Besides Auburn University, three historically black universities were also in attendance to welcome the branch campus: Alabama A&M, Alabama State, and Tuskegee University. Dr. Andrew Hugine, President of Alabama A & M, and Dr. Gilbert Rochon, President of Tuskegee University, both spoke during the ceremony and expressed their support of the new branch campus to provide additional opportunities for their graduates. Dr. William Anderson, first African-American President of the American Osteopathic Foundation and graduate of Alabama State University spoke on the importance of VCOM in providing primary care physicians for Alabama and the importance of the collaboration to the osteopathic profession.
The honorable Bill Ham, Mayor of Auburn spoke regarding the importance of VCOM to the work force and local community, as well as to research and the economy. “Our collaboration with Auburn and other universities is important because of their outstanding commitment to science, research and education,” said John Rocovich, Jr., VCOM Chairman of the Board, “Having opened two other campuses, VCOM brings with it the experience to build and operate a successful medical school.”
VCOM was founded in 2001, and opened in 2003 as a private, nonprofit college affiliated with Virginia Tech University. The college has graduated over 900 physicians to date, with more than 50% of graduates entering primary care practice each year. In 2011, VCOM opened a campus in Spartanburg, South Carolina, collaborating with Wofford College to serve the Carolinas region, which also suffers from a shortage of primary care physicians and poor health statistics. The campus in Auburn will be VCOM’s third and is projected to welcome its first class in 2015, after the Carolinas Campus has successfully graduated its first class of medical students.
There are 29 colleges of osteopathic medicine with 37 campuses in the U.S. 4,600 osteopathic medical students graduated in 2012 and that number is expected to rise to over 5,600 graduates in the next four years. Some are affiliated with universities, such as Virginia Tech, Michigan State and Oklahoma State. Graduates earn the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, or D.O., degree rather than the Doctor of Medicine degree, or M.D. The basic curriculum for both degrees is essentially the same; however, osteopathic medicine focuses more on a whole patient approach and primary care, emphasizes the prevention of illness through healthier lifestyles and adds osteopathic manipulation to standard medical care.
Auburn University President, Jay Gogue closed the event, stating, "We’re pleased to have the chance to work with VCOM to advance healthcare in Alabama and the Southeast.”