Medical school to serve the community at new primary care center

By Ron Brown, February 20, 2015

Having successfully completed its first semester of operation, the Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) is now engaged in two major building projects that will play a significant role in student instruction — a new medical services center for the community and additional research facilities at its main building, the Center for Medical and Health Sciences.

The new medical center, expected to open this spring, will allow aspiring doctors to train under the tutelage of experienced faculty and will provide the community with a new and comprehensive health care resource. It will be located near the Kmart on Wards Road, Lynchburg’s busiest retail corridor.

In its first phase, the center will have about 6,500 square feet to serve residents of Lynchburg and the surrounding counties. Future plans call for an expansion that will more than double the startup space. Hours will be 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday.

Dr. Ronnie B. Martin, D.O., FACOFP-dist., dean of LUCOM, said the center will provide the new medical school with a critical component in reaching its accreditation goals.

“This patient-centered primary care medical center will allow our students to see, evaluate, and participate in the treatment of patients under the supervision of physician instructors,” Martin said. “Having a facility like this is not only a requirement of our accrediting body; it is also part of our commitment to the community to expand access to quality health care for all those in our region and state. It becomes a physical demonstration of Liberty University’s dedication to improving the lives of all the citizens of Lynchburg and our neighboring communities.”

The center will operate in cooperation with Central Virginia Family Physicians and MD Resources to provide women’s health, pediatrics, internal medicine, family medicine, osteopathic manipulative medicine, and sports medicine services by college faculty. It will also have diagnostic lab and X-ray capabilities. The college’s affiliation with Centra Medical Group and other prominent medical groups in the region, including, but not limited to, Medical Associates of Central Virginia, Radiology Consultants of Virginia, the Orthopaedic Center of Central Virginia, and Women’s Health Services of Central Virginia, will provide both additional patient services and further training opportunities for medical students.

While the center is a major undertaking, the medical school also has other critical tasks to complete in these early years, including the construction of research facilities, additional clinical teaching laboratories, and classrooms. More than 8,500 square feet of new research space will be completed soon at the 144,000-square-foot Center for Medical and Health Sciences to house six specific laboratories and a general purpose laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment and resources. Laboratories will be equipped to facilitate advanced research in neurological sciences, cardiovascular physiology and care, pain control, reproductive issues, gastroenterology issues (including inflammation and digestive disorders), and the study of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). Equipment will allow for motion testing and strength and balance testing, as well as evaluation of the effects of OMM on a variety of patient medical conditions. Laser confocal microscopes, terabytes of computing power, and environmentally controlled work centers are all important components of the new spaces scheduled to open this spring.

In addition to these construction projects, the medical school continues to develop sound working relationships with prominent health care providers in Central and Southside Virginia to ensure that its students have access to the clinical education and patients necessary to convert knowledge into medical skill and competency.

“We have finalized affiliation agreements establishing a long-term partnership with Centra that will allow us to provide a high-quality clinical education experience for approximately half of our class each year with the quality physicians affiliated with that institution,” Martin said.

Halifax Regional Hospital in South Boston was the first hospital to establish an affiliation agreement with LUCOM, providing an important link in the college’s desire to train students for rural and underserved practices. The college also has a partnership with Johnson Health Systems, the traditional provider of health services for the underserved in Lynchburg. Affiliations and partnership agreements with the Life Point System of six hospitals across Southern Virginia will provide clinical education for another quarter of the school’s students. LUCOM is currently negotiating agreements with Chesapeake Regional Hospitals System in the Tidewater region and its affiliated medical groups.

In addition to expanding its partnerships through clinical affiliations, the medical college continues to recruit and develop the faculty, staff, and other human resources required to fulfill its mission and vision.

“We have been very blessed by the number and quality of faculty and staff who have elected to join us here at Liberty,” Martin said. “We are approaching our immediate roster goal of approximately 40 full-time faculty members and an equal number of qualified staff, and are confident that in the next three years God will bring to us the additional 40 to 50 of each that we will need to fulfill our mission completely.”

The college expects to recruit an additional 400 part-time, clinical faculty members to meet the educational needs of its students.

“While there remains a lot of work to do in fully developing our curriculum and delivery systems for our students, we are already beginning to explore the development of Graduate Medical Education opportunities for both our students and for the patients and citizens of this area with our affiliated partners in Central and Southern Virginia,” Martin said. “The programs we will develop together will make a difference in quality of life as well as in the economic status of those living in our region.”

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