First LUCOM student-doctors to walk across the stage

Four years after its creation, Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine is set to present its inaugural graduating class May 19 with Dr. Ben Carson, an esteemed neurosurgeon and the current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, as the featured speaker.

LUCOM opened its doors in August 2014, making it the secondosteopathic school in the Commonwealth of Virginia and 30th of what is now 34 schools in the United States.

LUCOM works to train osteopathic physicians of the near future, and it also strives to teach the students how to offer service regarding every form of health. For its dean, Peter Bell, DO, the importance of acknowledging the tremendous responsibility of being a doctor is something he cannot overemphasize.

“We’re giving our graduates the opportunity to obtain a license to practice medicine and surgery — to holistically take care of people. People are three-part beings. We care not just for their physical needs, but for their mental and spiritual needs, as well,” Dr. Bell said. “The fact is, by putting on that white coat, there’s immediate respect, but with it comes a huge amount of responsibility, and you have to behave and act differently than what the society norms are for the average person.”

The bond between the students is undeniable, but in the case of pending graduates Josh and Nichole Brunton, the scholarly bond went as far as blooming into a romantic connection.

After meeting near the beginning of their first year of medical school in a study group, their study dates soon turned into dinner dates, and led to their January 2018 wedding.

“Medical school romance is a curious thing with lots of hours studying, cadaver labs and even life and death situations, and all that really strengthens your relationship as a couple,” Josh said. “We’re each other’s biggest advocate, both personally and professionally, and we think having a partner that understands the adversity you are facing is a huge benefit.”

As they spoke about their four years, both Josh and Nichole Brunton made a point to express their appreciation for LUCOM’s faculty, especially Dr. Michael Weigner, Dr. Michael Hueber, Dr. David Klink and Teresa Henderson.They said numerous faculty members would go to great lengths to adapt the curriculum to students’ needs, developing quality experiences in clinical simulations, and even referenced a joke involving an unnamed faculty member selling the birthright of his first-born child to provide stipends to third-year students who needed to travel for rotations.

“They went above and beyond to ensure that we did not just have an adequate medical school, but one that would place us in a position to excel,” Nichole Brunton said. “We think we speak for our entire student body in saying they have been our greatest advocates, mentors and role-models, and words cannot fully express our gratitude to those four individuals as well as the many other staff and faculty members of LUCOM.”

Josh Brunton personally noted the influence that Dr. John Pierce, chair of LUCOM’s Department of Women’s Health, had on him.

“Through conversations with him, spending time (with him) at the hospital on labor and delivery, and seeing how he interacts with and cares for patients, the course of my career redirected into the field of OBGYN,” Josh Brunton said.

As members of LUCOM’s inaugural graduating class, Nichole and Josh Brunton recognize the significance and the influence that they have had on the past, present, and future of Liberty’s osteopathic medicine program. They acknowledged that they have the unique opportunity to set a precedent for future students, and they look forward to seeing what comes next.

“It is amazing to look back at the school, now full with four classes, and be able to say, ‘We helped build that,’” Nichole Brunton said. “Whether giving feedback about the curriculum, recommending different technology to record lectures for students, or going out into hospital systems that hadn’t had medical students before, we really had the opportunity to influence how the school developed.”

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