LUCOM graduates Class of 2019, its second class of osteopathic physicians

Christopher Breedlove | LUCOM Marketing | May 14, 2019

Liberty University College of Osteopathic MedicineLiberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine (LUCOM) honored its second class of osteopathic physicians through its annual Hooding Ceremony this past weekend. Taking place inside the original Thomas Road Baptist Church sanctuary, the Class of 2019 was conferred the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree on Saturday, May 11.

“The past four years of medical school have been momentous, and the future shines brightly with hope and anticipation. You are only the second graduating class at LUCOM, but as a class you exceeded the national match rate for residencies,” said Kevin Corsini, PhD, senior associate dean of operations and external affairs. “Today continues to serve as a reminder of a vision cast over 40 years ago by Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr. Class of 2019, 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.”

Liberty University College of Osteopathic MedicineIn a nearly full sanctuary, the faculty of Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine hooded 151 new osteopathic physicians.

“For any student enrolling in a new college of medicine, there is much to be anticipated. The Class of 2019 joined the class ahead of them as pioneers. There was much planned and known, but still much to discover,” said LUCOM Dean Peter Bell, DO. “The Class of 2019 contributed to the college’s culture, reputation, and functionality. Best plans became better plans due to the collaboration of students. Many thanks to all who pledged themselves to the vision that has become LUCOM.”

Liberty University College of Osteopathic MedicinePrior to the official hooding, Dr. Bell spoke to the class on a brief message focusing on patients, milestones, and excellence. He reminded them of a quote from 19th century physician Dr. Rudolf Virchow, who said, “Medical education does not exist to provide students with a way to make a living, but to ensure the health of the community.” 

From day one, the Class of 2019, much like their predecessors, were held to a higher expectation and higher standard. “Unfortunately, the entertainment industry is full of factious doctors engaged in misconduct, and the misdeeds of some real physicians are showcased in the media. As professionals, we must strive every day to ascend to the highest expectations of our profession,” added Dr. Bell. “Do not be that physician who loses focus of who they are, what is expected, and where God has called them to serve. By placing the patient first in the patient-physician relationship, you will achieve higher ground.”

Dr. Bell also challenged the Class of 2019 by pushing their personal limits. “Challenge yourself. Do not settle on good, when with effort, better can be obtained, and with dedication best is achievable. Ask the questions that others are not asking. Seek to understand beyond the prescribed parameters. Demonstrate intellectual curiosity. Show passion. Do more than the curriculum demands. Suck the marrow out of every experience. Medicine is not a job, it’s a calling! Live everyday with purpose, focus, and in the pursuit of excellence.”

Liberty University College of Osteopathic MedicineFollowing Dr. Bell’s remarks, each member of the Class of 2019 walked across the stage, one-at-a-time to be individually hooded, and symbolically transitioned from a Liberty osteopathic medical student to an osteopathic physician. Prior to the conclusion of the Hooding Ceremony, each graduate recited aloud the Osteopathic Oath, led by James Kribs, DO, associate professor of osteopathic manipulative medicine.

“Thank you for investing yourselves in your medical training at LUCOM, and thank you for enriching our lives in the process. We celebrate today not just your momentous accomplishment in becoming osteopathic physicians – but you - your lives,” said Timothy Leonard, MD, PhD, senior associate dean of academic affairs. “God has given you a life with a profound purpose: to carry His love to hurting people, to represent His goodness in in the lives of others – in your own families, in your patients and their families, in your colleagues, and in your communities. Steward God’s gifts and grace well. When you are tired and weary, remember that God is faithful and that He is our strength.”

Liberty UniversityEarlier that morning, before LUCOM’s Hooding Ceremony, members of the Class of 2019 were able to sit front row during Liberty’s 46th Commencement Ceremony at Williams Stadium, joining the rest of the University’s graduates. During Commencement, graduates and their families heard from Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Prof. Tony Nobles and Dr. Ben Carson, and keynote speaker, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

Vice President Pence encouraged all the graduates to prepare their minds for action. “You need to show that we can love God and love our neighbor at the same time through words and deeds. And you need to be prepared to meet opposition. As the founder of this university (the late Dr. Jerry Falwell) often said, ‘No one ever achieved greatness without experiencing opposition.’”

He also challenged the graduates to “go forth for Liberty” and make their alma mater proud as their loved ones cheer them on. “Decide here and now that you are going to stand firm, that you will put into practice all the things you learned here on Liberty Mountain, that you will never give up, that you will persevere, and that you will always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have.”

Liberty UniversityLUCOM welcomed Prof. Nobles last fall during Grand Rounds and Dr. Carson visited LUCOM during his presidential campaign in 2015, he was also the keynote speaker for the inaugural Class of 2018 last spring.

As the second class to graduate from LUCOM, the Class of 2019 set the bar with Match and specialty results with four graduates entering into anesthesiology, five in diagnostic radiology, 16 in emergency medicine, 45 in family medicine, five in general surgery, 31 in internal medicine, three in pediatric medicine, two in neurology, five in obstetrics, one in ophthalmology, one in orthopedic surgery, one in otolaryngology and facial plastic surgery, 11 in pediatrics, three in physical medicine and rehabilitation, seven in psychiatry, eight in traditional rotating internships, and one in urology.

Liberty University College of Osteopathic MedicineClass of 2019 graduate Emily Hillaker, DO, will begin her residency next month in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. “It feels so crazy and awesome to be a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. As a kid, my family and I always had osteopathic physicians provide our care; I always found them caring and complete, and that’s why I chose osteopathy.”

Hillaker entered LUCOM as a member of the inaugural class and took time off to build her family and then returned shortly thereafter. “It’s so surreal to be here now. I wouldn’t change anything.”

Liberty University College of Osteopathic MedicineAlvin Nguyen, DO, credits the osteopathic profession to allow him to have more tools in his medical toolbox. “Osteopathic Medicine has a loving nature to offer. At Liberty, I had loving preceptors, loving staff and faculty; being together at LUCOM truly helped us all grow a love for serving others.” He will begin his residency Family Medicine next month.

A fellow classmate and graduate of Nguyen’s, Arif Hafeez, DO, was in a unique position to have his sister (a practicing osteopathic physician) walk across the stage with him and officially hood him in front of his family and friends. “It feels amazing and rewarding to have my sister here and hood me. It’s a very humbling feeling and I just wanted to make my parents proud.” He will also enter into Family Medicine.

Liberty University College of Osteopathic MedicineMatthew DeMatteo, DO, also entered with the inaugural class but took one year to be a Teaching Fellow in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) under the guidance of LUCOM faculty. “It feels amazing to be here, a real privilege, and a real honor. LUCOM’s mission and vision lined up with great patient-centered care and the training from all the physicians and biomedical scientists really help shaped and mold the type of physician I’m going to be. It’s a real privilege.” He chose Anesthesiology as his residency specialty as a way to make a real influence in people’s lives prior to surgery and critical care.

View images from Liberty University’s 46th Commencement Ceremony and images from LUCOM’s Hooding Ceremony at