LUCOM achieves new milestone, graduates first-class of osteopathic physicians
Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) achieved a new milestone in its history as 126 student-doctors were honored through graduation into the osteopathic profession on Saturday, May 19. This was the first class to graduate since the COM opened August 2014. Graduates were symbolically hooded inside the main sanctuary of Thomas Road Baptist Church, the same location as the inaugural White Coat Ceremony.
“You are the focus of our celebration today,” said Peter Bell, DO, dean of LUCOM. “We are thanking God for each of you and this day…because of your magnificent accomplishments, for completion of medical school and achieving a match rate for residencies that exceeds the national average – congratulations.”
Referencing the initial accreditation from the AOA Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) on May 10, Dr. Bell said, “The Lord was faithful. God navigated the waters and with His help, we are here today for your graduation celebration.”
For LUCOM, the Class of 2018 was truly a class of firsts; the first class to travel to Guatemala for medical outreach, the first class to support local outreach in the city of Lynchburg, the first class to travel to Africa for international rotations and the first class to match into residencies. “Class of 2018, you were chosen to attend LUCOM based on your character, capacity, and motivation, and it was truly a divine appointment that guided you to attend this medical school. I have seen you demonstrate your passion for medicine with a servant’s hearts (true concern for others) and an owner’s mind (accepting responsibility for your actions),” said Dr. Bell.
According to the Dean, nearly two-thirds of the graduating class will enter Primary Care residencies, with a large number focused on serving in rural and underserved communities. He also mentioned many were headed towards international medical missions. “With our first class, we’ve hit a home run. Remember as it is written by the Apostle Paul in Second Timothy, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith’ – graduates, you are truly Champions,” added Dr. Bell.
Special remarks were also given by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. “Entering medical school was a new experience for you, and operating a medical school was a new experience for us. We had a brand-new, spectacular facility, outfitted with everything necessary for world-class medical training. We had some of the best physicians and health care professionals in the world on our staff. We were ready — but we needed you,” he said. “We needed students who would join us in our mission and set an example for all the classes that would follow. As we congratulate you on completing your degrees and send you forth to your residency training, we won’t forget your boldness in beginning this new venture with us.”
President Falwell also mentioned that the Center for Medical and Health Sciences was the “last piece of the puzzle” in his father’s original vision for a world-class Christian university. “We sincerely thank you for choosing a new medical school, Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine, and for representing us so well. I hear reports from physicians all over the community on how delighted they were to have worked with you, how your compassion for others is evident in what you do,” said President Falwell.
Following his remarks, President Falwell introduced LUCOM’s keynote speaker, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former presidential candidate Benjamin S. Carson, MD.
“It’s an amazing day, one that brings your efforts to completion, and I am glad to make this direct connection with all of you who will carry medicine into the future. It’s not an easy journey. It took immense dedication and unshakeable faith,” Dr. Carson added. “Many said, ‘that a world-class osteopathic medical school built on a faith-based curriculum along with the accepted academic standards of science and medicine could not be created.’ Today this graduating class stands as a testament to Liberty’s courage and resolve and to the power of God. Never let anyone shake that.”
Sharing personal stories of achievements and lessons learned from failures, Dr. Carson said that he often thinks of the first rule of medicine, “To help and to do no harm. It’s so important to be a holistic healer looking at the entirety of the individual; the soul, the brain, the body. The patient is not the ‘colon cancer’ or the ‘emphysema’ or some other disease. They’re created by God, for whom Jesus died, and for whom we have the privilege of intervening to change their lives.”
Dr. Carson shared a story about serving at John Hopkins Medical Center as a neurological surgeon when he was approached by a family with a young son who couldn’t walk and suffered with double-vision. The young boy, at the time, was ultimately diagnosed with a malignant brain stem tumor. The family told Dr. Carson that the Lord led them to find a Christian neurosurgeon. Dr. Carson, early in his career, explained that nothing could be done. The family persisted to Dr. Carson that the Lord led them there. Using MRIs and modern technology, the results were always discouraging. After a few days, he saw little improvements to the young boy. Deciding on surgery, Dr. Carson noticed changed characteristics of the tumor; he pulled the final tissue back to reveal that the brain stem was smashed and displaced, but intact. The boy underwent successful surgery and became a minister years later.
“I realized at that point in my life, that I would be the neurosurgeon, and God would be the hands,” said Dr. Carson.
Offering encouragement, Dr. Carson concluded his address by saying, “You all have tremendous spheres of influence, that God has provided for you. And if you use them the right way and allow Him to work through you, it is amazing. You will have more influence than almost anybody; but willing to work together, and remember Godly principles of loving your fellow man, caring about your neighbor, developing your God-given talents so that you become valuable to the people around you; if you do that, not only will we have a great nation, but one nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and justice for all – congratulations, the first graduating class of Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine.” The last time Dr. Carson visited LUCOM was in 2015.
Following Dr. Carson’s keynote remarks, Ronnie B. Martin, DO, founding dean of LUCOM, took the stage to address the first class one last time. “First and foremost, let me congratulate you on what you have survived and what you have achieved. You are all pioneers, explorers, and leaders. Nothing was given to you, you have earned the professional standing and respect signified by the white coat you received four years ago,” he said. “Remember Jesus Christ, as the greatest physician…He never healed to prove himself. He was not boastful or full of self-pride. Christ made himself available to help all those who needed his help.”
Dr. Martin left LUCOM in 2016 after establishing the COM from the ground up. During his time at Liberty, he helped advance the college’s mission in holding local health clinics and developing clinical partnerships, with the goal to encourage LUCOM alumni to remain in the area following graduation. He worked closely with Central Virginia Family Physicians to form the Liberty Mountain Medical Group, a primary care clinic near campus where Liberty students-doctors receive training, and also led the first international medical outreach trip to Guatemala. He was instrumental in the development of the Center for Medical and Health Sciences and read through every detail in establishing provisional accreditation.
“Remember as you continue to grow as a professional that treating the disease or pathological condition will be the easiest part of dealing with the patient and being a physician. It is the human components of your profession that will present the greatest challenge and the greatest rewards,” added Dr. Martin. “What you share during the journey is usually as valuable than the destination. You will be defined not by your successes or failures, but by how you deal with each of them as you journey through life.”
Near the conclusion of the Hooding Ceremony, LUCOM graduates recited the Osteopathic Oath led by American Osteopathic Association President Mark A. Baker, DO. Though not before he offered a few encouraging words.
“Four years ago, you started as an Osteopathic medical student; today, you are my colleague. We are all a part of the Osteopathic family growing by leaps and bounds. Your postdoctoral years (residencies and fellowships) will build upon the philosophy and knowledge acquired at LUCOM. You have been given a great opportunity, but never forget the ones that helped get you to this point. Be active in and provide for your family, but also work hard for your patients.”
View images from the Hooding Ceremony at Facebook.com/LibertyMedicine.