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 approving the dedication of funds to this initiative. John Rocovich JD, LLM. and Sue Ellen Rocovich, DO, PhD were the individuals instrumental in founding the Edward Via College o fOsteopathic 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 Dean, now Provost and President, Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, DO. 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, in response to the enrollment of a significant number of students from western North Carolina and South Carolina, VCOM founded the Carolinas Campus of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Spartanburg, South Carolina. North and South Carolina had each performed workforce studies that demonstrated a tremendous need for primary care and for physicians who would practice in the western Appalachian region of NC and the upstate region of SC. Leadership from the city of Spartanburg and Spartanburg Regional Hospital began recruiting VCOM in 2008 to open the campus in Spartanburg and after much planning and preparation, the campus opened in 2011. Instrumental in founding the VCOM Carolina Campus was Chairman of the Board, John Rocovich, J.D., LL.M.; President James Wolfe, Ph.D.; Dean Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, DO; and Vice Dean for the Carolinas Campus, Tim Kowalski DO. Also instrumental in recruiting VCOM to open the campus was the Spartanburg Regional Medical Center administration and Ron Januchowski, DO who now serves as the Associate DeanforCurriculum, Assessment and Education. Also contributing positively to this success were multiple community leaders including the mayor, local legislators, and community leaders who went on to serve as an Advisory Board for the Carolinas Campus. In 2010 the COCA (the accrediting agency for pre-doctoral osteopathic medical education) extended the accreditation status of the main campus to the Carolinas Campus. 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. Again attesting to VCOM’s commitment to excellence, the branch campus has met each accreditation requirement along the way and has received many commendations throughout the accreditation process. The branch campus graduated the first class in May of 2015.
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). Jay Gouge, PhD, President of AU at the time, had visited each Alabama county and saw the extreme need for rural physicians and for primary care. Dr. Gouge and AU administration determined an osteopathic college would be best to fill this need. Recognizing the success of VCOM and Virginia Tech collaboration, representatives visited both the VCOM Virginia and the VCOM Carolinas campuses. A due diligence study was performed from January to March 2012 to explore the need and resources for a branch campus and an announcement to establish the campus of made in August 2012. VCOM then began the initial steps in founding the Auburn branch campus. Instrumental in this founding were VCOM's Chairman of the Board John Rocovich, JD, LLM; President James Wolfe, PhD; Senior Dean 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; and Michael Goodlett MD; the official AU medical school liaison. Also essential to the founding and success were AU President Jay Gogue PhD, AU Provost Tim Boosinger PhD, 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 the Auburn University Research Park. Licensure and accreditation approvals were obtained from the State and the COCA accreditation process began in early 2013. The Auburn campus opened as a fully accredited branch campus in 2015.
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.