LEWISBURG, W.Va. – Continued growth, service to West Virginia and perseverance during the COVID-19 pandemic were recurring themes when West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) President James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., provided WVSOM’s annual State of the School address on March 31.
During a virtual presentation to the school’s faculty, staff and student leadership, Nemitz provided an overview of the school’s 2019-20 academic year. He said the osteopathic medical school has lived up to the vision established by physicians who, a half-century ago, saw a need for an institution that would educate physicians to serve rural populations.
“We had visionary founders who recognized that West Virginia desperately needed physicians, especially in rural areas,” Nemitz said. “Now, almost 50 years later, when you compare WVSOM to other medical schools in the state … we’re the leading producer of physicians who practice in rural West Virginia and we continue to lead in graduates who choose a primary care residency.”
In a discussion of student demographics, Nemitz said he took pride in the fact that WVSOM students hail from all parts of the state and country. He pointed out that WVSOM graduates practice medicine in 52 of West Virginia’s 55 counties, noting that WVSOM alumni are not concentrated within a single geographic area.
Nemitz said research and sponsored programs are growth areas for WVSOM. Research activity by members of the school’s community is at the highest level it has been in WVSOM’s history, he said.
He also discussed the high rate of community service performed by the school’s students, offering examples of ways students came to the aid of those in need during the pandemic. WVSOM also conducts broad-ranging community outreach through the school’s Center for Rural and Community Health, Nemitz said, explaining that the center’s initiatives include educational programming on growing and preparing healthy foods, information on lifestyle-based management of chronic diseases, and efforts to help West Virginia battle the opioid epidemic, among other programs.
Additionally, Nemitz celebrated faculty and staff for ensuring students were able to continue their medical education despite the pandemic. He cited recent reports by U.S. News and World Report and The Chronicle of Higher Education that WVSOM has retained its status as a top medical school and remains a “Great College to Work For.”
Discussing WVSOM’s financial status, he explained that most of the school’s revenue comes from tuition and fees and that the largest category of its operating expenses are wages and benefits paid to employees. He said that thanks to its effective stewardship of funds, WVSOM’s financial composite index is among the best in the state and in the nation, and that the school is debt-free. “In these times where institutions are struggling financially, WVSOM is not,” Nemitz said.
He ended the address with a hopeful look toward the future.
“We are poised for growth,” Nemitz said. “We’re at a critical point in the evolution of the school. We can’t just maintain the status quo; we need to grow and develop. Stay tuned as we continue to move forward and as we continue to live our mission.”