LEWISBURG, W.Va. (WVDN) – James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., president of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM), named Don Smith the school’s director of communications, starting Oct. 2.
Smith has extensive experience working with print, broadcast and online media as well as government, business and industry officials in West Virginia. Nemitz said Smith’s proven leadership skills and deep familiarity with the needs of news media make him the ideal candidate to help increase the school’s visibility.
“Don Smith has long been a media leader in our state, and I couldn’t be happier that he is joining WVSOM,” Nemitz said. “I’m proud that our school has grown to become a leading producer of physicians for West Virginia, and it’s important that we ensure others are aware of all that we’ve accomplished and continue to accomplish. Don will help us maximize our public relations efforts, promoting WVSOM’s mission while gaining recognition for our contributions to the medical profession and the health care needs of West Virginia.”
Smith served for 10 years as executive director of the West Virginia Press Association (WVPA) following a decade of service on the organization’s board of directors. In his role as executive director, Smith restructured the WVPA, developed its legislative lobbying operation and business network, and worked with 70 newspapers to create the organization’s news network, among other achievements.
He will serve as the spokesperson for WVSOM, the state’s largest medical school, and as press secretary for WVSOM’s Office of the President. Smith also will develop, implement and coordinate communications and public relations strategies for the school and for Nemitz’s office.
Smith said he will work to draw state and national attention to WVSOM and its accomplishments.
“As director of communications, I want to add value to the excellent team of people who are making a difference in the quality of life in our state and beyond. My goal is to use my expertise, experience and connections to promote WVSOM, its students and its alumni in West Virginia and across the country,” he said.
Part of WVSOM’s mission is to educate physicians to serve in rural communities. According to data in the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission’s 2022 West Virginia Health Sciences and Rural Health Report, WVSOM produced more physicians practicing in rural areas of West Virginia than the state’s other two medical schools combined, for the classes of 2012-2017. Smith said WVSOM’s success in this area is one of the things that drew him to the school.
“Having worked as a journalist across West Virginia, I see an increasing need for health care and health education in our rural communities. With that background, WVSOM’s personal and holistic approach to medicine makes sense to me,” Smith said. “As a native West Virginian, I love that WVSOM is recognized for producing graduates who practice in rural settings. Knowing our state, that’s important to me.”
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