We are entering a momentous phase of development for our university in this the fourth year of operation for the College of Osteopathic Medicine. For the first time since the establishment of the COM, all four classes will be filled, and our first commencement ceremony will be held in spring 2014. Also during spring 2014, we anticipate being awarded full accreditation by the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation. These accomplishments are only the beginning in the WCUCOM journey to becoming the best medical school of its kind in the country.
Community is more than just a concept at WCUCOM. Our partners are working with us as we strive to strengthen our community based clinical programs. Hospitals and physicians from across the Gulf South region have demonstrated a commitment to the WCUCOM mission. As the number of partners continuously increases, we remain aligned with those who first supported us, some even before the first student was enrolled. Our community has aided us in demonstrating that it is possible to successfully reintegrate service into the missions of academic medical centers and medical schools. Student volunteer projects and mission trips are considered an integral part of these efforts. Our faculty is committed to the establishment of a distinct osteopathic presence through clinical duties, research opportunities, and volunteer services.
Using the concepts taught to all osteopathic physicians, approaching each medical problem in the framework of the whole patient, it is only natural that we should approach medical education in the same manner. While the students are the heart of WCUCOM, the faculty members are the soul. Adequately addressing the healthcare needs of the Gulf South region requires that medical education comprehensively addresses what, how, and where we teach. The WCUCOM curriculum is based on the concepts of osteopathic primary care. With clinical training that emphasizes the social determinants of health, health disparities, and cultural competence, we are preparing our students to meet the healthcare needs of all individuals, with special attention directed to safe, high-quality and cost-effective patient care, the medically underserved, and diverse populations of the Gulf South.
Commitment from William Carey University to the patients of the Gulf South region continues to be inspirational. A small private university’s Board of Trustees recognized the need for primary care providers across the region and committed the vast resources needed to take action. This vision is still growing, as evidenced by WCUCOM’s continued expansion. We are building a new and larger anatomy laboratory and establishing a new bench research facility. Existing facilities are being expanded and upgraded on a continuing basis. Future plans include exploring the feasibility of operating a healthcare clinic, possibly through existing community- based partnerships.
Open administration exists within WCUCOM. As Dean, I am committed to open communication to students as well as faculty and staff. Since my arrival at WCUCOM I have established an open invitation to all students wanting to meet with me. We meet each Wednesday morning at 7 am for a walk, which provides a relaxed atmosphere for the exchange of ideas. Since my appointment as Dean in February 2013, I have met with students, a minimum of once each month, in an open lunch meeting with no agenda. This lunchtime gathering serves as a forum for students to discuss any issues that might be on their minds. Additionally, I meet regularly with student government representatives. Should students need to meet with me, they are encouraged to make an appointment. Unless emergency circumstances arise, I am generally able to meet with students within a couple of days.
Meeting the WCUCOM mission is achieved in part as we seek and accept applicants with a passion for primary care in the underserved Gulf South region. To further foster this mission, WCUCOM has implemented a clinical curriculum that is delivered by a majority of primary care physicians. Over 60% of WCUCOM’s full time clinical faculty members are primary care certified; while approximately 80% of our required clinical rotations are primary care oriented in community hospitals and clinics. Innovative models of primary care increasingly incorporate Inter-professional teamwork, such as the multidisciplinary relationship between WCU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and School of Nursing. Together these efforts will foster graduates who have a passion for, and understanding of, primary care partnerships to achieve a better healthcare future for the Gulf South region.
James M. Turner DO, FACOFP, FACOEP
Dean, College of Osteopathic Medicine
William Carey University