Friday, July 25, 2014

School aims to help

Martin helps students get to underserved regions

Liberty’s College of Osteopathic Medicine is designing a system to produce doctors who will work in portions of Virginia with inadequate service, according to Dr. Ronnie Martin, dean of the college.

According to Martin, physicians in inner-city or rural areas are considered to be in underserved regions. Regions may be experiencing this because of the cultural mix of the region, lack of jobs, or low quality of life.

“The reality is that those same areas have tremendous need,” Martin said. “Many of those areas don’t have public transportation, so the ability of the patients to see a doctor that is only 20 miles away might as well be 200 miles away.”

The first step in assuring these struggling regions are targeted is recruiting the students, Martin said.

“We recruit students from rural and remote areas, because statistically, they are more likely to go back,” Martin said.

Another trait the school looks for in its applicants is age. According to Martin, students who are either older or second generation are more likely to go into primary care.
“People change,” Martin said. “People’s goals change, but if we recruit a higher percentage, more will go back to those underserved areas.”

According to Martin, the second step in designing the system is integration of practices in regions with inadequate service into the curriculum.

“We give our students a significant amount of exposure to primary care and community-based care,” Martin said. “All of our medical clubs and organizations have to have a service project, and many of those are in underserved areas.”

This exposure includes medical outreach events during the first and second year of study, and a one-month rotation in the third and fourth year of study, Martin explained.
“Many of the mentors and educators we are putting in front of them have experience in rural and underserved areas,” Martin said.

According to Martin, osteopathic medicine has historically been a primary care profession that placed great emphasis on community-based practices.

According to their website, the College of Osteopathic Medicine has educational partnerships with Lynchburg General Hospital, Centra’s PACE program, Southside Community Hospital and the Virginia Baptist Hospital as well as Johnson Health Center, Lifepoint and Halifax Regional. However, Centra shares a similar vision and mission for delivery of health.
“Centra is a major partner and a very important partner to us,” Martin said.

According to Martin, the school is currently under a provisional accreditation and hopes to be accredited by the graduation of their first class
in 2018.

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