The College of Osteopathic Medicine, at William Carey University (WCUCOM), is continuing to successfully move forward, focusing on becoming the best medical school of its kind in the country. This success can be attributed to none other than the significant teamwork of the WCUCOM family, including but not limited to: the WCU administration and Board of Trustees, and the WCUCOM student body, faculty, staff, administration, and community stakeholders.
During the past year, WCUCOM, a still relatively young college of osteopathic medicine, made great strides in solidifying the aforementioned goal of working toward becoming the best medical school of its kind in the country, by achieving the following:
- Full accreditation by the AOA’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA)
- Graduation of the inaugural WCUCOM class of 2014
- A residency match rate of ninety-eight percent (98%), seventy-three percent (73%) of which focused solely on primary care
- The promotion of Dr. Everett Roark to Director, Master of Biomedical Science (WCUMBS), which was recently restructured to better prepare healthcare professionals by including tracks in the following three emphasis areas: (1) pre medical/dental; (2) pre pharmacy; and (3) pre health professional, which includes pre- physical therapy and physical therapy candidates.
Tradition is important to WCUCOM, and as a young college of osteopathic medicine, it has been a learning experience to us all as we work to determine which initiatives are less successful, versus those that are worthy of improving upon, and ultimately maintaining. Some of the successful traditions WCUCOM continues to work toward strengthening include the: (1) Wednesday morning walks with the Dean, (2) open administration, and (3) town hall meetings. Wednesday morning walks with the Dean provide both a relaxed atmosphere in which students are invited to participate in exercise, and also pursue the discussion of ideas with the Dean. Another WCUCOM tradition is that of open administration, in which the Dean and all administrators are committed to open communication with students, faculty, and staff. Since being appointment Dean, February 2013, I have met, encouraged, and enjoyed such meetings with students, staff, and faculty. Town hall meetings are a third tradition established during my Deanship at WCUCOM. These meetings, which oftentimes have no particular set agenda, serve as a forum for students to discuss any issues or concerns they might be experiencing. Moreover, I meet regularly with WCUCOM student leaders to keep abreast of student-related issues.
Community alliances continue to grow, in both importance and number, as we work in tandem with our partners to further strengthen already existing community-based clinical programs. Physicians representing hospitals and clinics from across the Gulf South region have and continue to demonstrate a commitment WCUCOM’s Mission. As the number of community partnerships increases, we remain well aligned with those original supporters, some of whom solidified their commitments to WCUCOM before the first osteopathic medical student was ever enrolled. These community partnerships are extremely beneficial in so many ways. For instance, community partnerships and stakeholders have greatly aided WCUCOM in successfully demonstrating the importance of the integration of service into the missions of academic medical centers and schools. WCUCOM faculty members are committed to the establishment of a distinct osteopathic presence through clinical duties, research opportunities, and volunteer services.
WCUCOM’s 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 treatment, particularly including the medically underserved, as well as the diverse populations of the Gulf South region.
Meeting the WCUCOM Mission is achieved in part as we seek and accept applicants with a passion for primary care, again with an emphasis on the medically underserved. To further foster this Mission, WCUCOM has implemented a clinical curriculum delivered by a majority of primary care physicians. Over sixty percent (60%) of WCUCOM’s full-time clinical faculty members are primary care certified; while approximately eighty percent (80%) of our required clinical rotations are primary care-oriented in community hospitals and clinics. Innovative models of primary care increasingly incorporate interprofessional teamwork, such as the multidisciplinary relationship between WCUCOM and the William Carey University School of Nursing (WCUSON). Together, these efforts will continue to foster graduates, who have exposure to, a passion for, and an understanding of primary care partnerships, in order to collaboratively achieve a better healthcare future for medically underserved populations.
I am truly humbled by the experience of leading such an outstanding and motivated group of students, faculty, and staff. Furthermore, I am proud of the hard work and success we have achieved thus far, and look forward to continuing with the momentum in which we have all become accustomed. The professional relationships I have made during my time as WCUCOM Dean, as well as the improvement in primary care efforts statewide continue to be an inspiration to me as we move forward in this important effort together.
James M. Turner, DO, MPH, FACOFP, FACOEP