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New osteopathic medical school begins classes

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Photo by Joel Coleman/Liberty University

With the start of classes in August, Liberty University became the home of the 30th school of osteopathic medicine in the country.

Establishing Liberty’s College of Osteopathic Medicine is part of the university’s overall goal to become a comprehensive Christian university, rivaling such well-known institutions as Brigham Young University and the University of Notre Dame.

Liberty received about 3,000 applications for the new school’s first class of 160 students. “We tried to find students that help us fulfill our vision and mission,” says Dr. Ronnie Martin, the school’s dean. “We hope they will go into community-based practices in underserved areas.”

About 32 of the students are from Western, Central and Southern Virginia. “We recruited heavily in those areas.” Martin says. “We believe there is a high potential for those graduates to go back to those areas.”

The dean is building affiliations and relationships with several community-based partners, such as Lynchburg-based Centra Health and Brentwood, Tenn.-based LifePoint Hospitals, which has six hospitals in Virginia.

Osteopathic medicine in­­cludes the use of prescription drugs, surgery and technology to diagnose diseases and evaluate injuries. The field also involves hands-on diagnosis and treatment using a type of therapy known as “osteopathic manipulative medicine,” moving muscles and joints using techniques such as stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.

The medical school is housed in Liberty’s new Center for Medical and Health Sciences. It occupies about 120,000 square feet of the 144,000-square-foot building. “As of today there is not a more technologically advanced college of medicine in this country,” Martin says. “We bought the latest state-of-the-art equipment. Our labs are as well-equipped as any place in the country.”

The center is also home to the School of Health Sciences’ master’s degree program in public health and a soon-to-be completed research facility. When finished, the building project will top out around $50 million, Martin says.

When the medical school’s students graduate, they will have “full, unrestricted practice rights in the United States and 66 countries worldwide,” Martin says. “Fifty percent of osteopathic graduates go into community-based practices, such as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, emergency and general surgery. The remaining 50 percent go into every other specialty you can imagine.”




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