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Spartanburg Regional and VCOM Partnership Aids Medical Growth in Upstate

Since 2010 Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System’s (SRHS) partnership with the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) has enriched not only the students but the Upstate community as well. VCOM’s Carolina campus graduated their first class May 23 with 151 students; these students received degrees as Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). As VCOM’s healthcare partner, 381 VCOM students have used SRHS as a classroom since the school’s opening.

The first medical school in the Upstate of South Carolina, the VCOM – Carolinas Campus was completed in 2011 at the former Spartan Mill site. VCOM was a starting point for the ongoing revitalization of Spartanburg’s north side and has been a fixture in the community ever since.

The campus welcomed its first students in the fall of 2011, and SRHS served as VCOM’s core clinical partner and hospital base. The clinical reputation of SRHS was a critical factor in the college’s decision to locate in the Upstate.

“The partnership has been a wonderful experience for our students. Their experience and knowledge is apparent at the end of their third year,” said Paul Switzer, MD, DHA, and Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs at VCOM– Carolinas Campus. “The clinical education they receive at Spartanburg Regional is superb.”

In the first two years of their studies in osteopathic medicine, VCOM students spend most of their time in the classroom learning the fundamentals of medical science. In their third and fourth years, their curriculum gives them firsthand experience at SRHS; exposing them to real-world clinical procedures and techniques, and patient interaction. At SRHS, VCOM students experience clinical skills and work in family practice, rural healthcare, geriatrics, OB/GYN, pediatrics, general surgery, internal medicine, psychiatry and emergency medicine.

A degree in osteopathic medicine means VCOM students practice the full scope of medicine and surgery. Osteopathic medical schools, such as VCOM – Carolinas Campus, put an emphasis on primary care physicians that go from a “whole person” approach to medicine. Instead of only treating specific symptoms or illnesses, DOs regard the body as an integrated whole; also focusing on preventive health care.

Since the partnership began, VCOM students and SRHS physicians have mutually learned from each other.

“VCOM’s presence in our community has done nothing but enrich our medical knowledge,” said Otis Baughman III, MD, CPE, and Director of Medical Education at SRHS. “It has brought academic stimulation and teaching opportunities for our physicians as they work with these students. The partnership also helped build our teaching infrastructure with better technology for teaching and training.”

In 2013, VCOM and SRHS further strengthened their relationship by collaborating on the expansion of cancer research at the then Gibbs Cancer Center, now Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute. Jack Pledger, PhD, and Associate Center Director for Basic Research at Gibbs, and also the Associate Dean for Biomedical Affairs at VCOM, works closely with VCOM’s faculty to further bring state-of-the-art personalized cancer care to the upstate through research.

“I have heard nothing but positive comments on the students and how well they work with patients,” Switzer said. “This has been an excellent relationship and partnership. I can say I’m well vested and hope the partnership continues for a long time.”