After a year filled with activities throughout the state to mark the 50th anniversary of its founding, the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) hosted its Golden Jubilee Weekend and All-School Reunion Nov. 3-6 in Lewisburg and White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
The weekend’s highlight was the Golden Jubilee itself, a black-tie-optional dinner and dance that brought alumni from the past half-century together with sponsors, WVSOM community members and school supporters. The event served as a fundraiser for scholarships to help ease students’ financial burden.
Dante Mattioli, a Class of 2025 student who is president of the school’s Student Government Association, said it was heartening to see that physicians educated at WVSOM are eager to play a role in the success of their alma mater’s current students.
“Seeing so many alumni come back to show their love for our school was terrific,” Mattioli said. “It was humbling to meet alumni two generations older than me who have been practicing medicine longer than I’ve been alive, and it was eye-opening to discuss how things have changed over the years. Events like these are important not only to raise money, but to exemplify WVSOM’s network that exists across the country. The support from alumni leads me to believe that when I enter residency, that network will still be there. It’s great to know there are 50 years of graduates willing to lend a hand.”
The weekend coincided with a continuing education conference hosted by the West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association. The conference kicked off with a welcome reception at The Greenbrier, where attendees mingled as the Ramp Supper Band, featuring current and former WVSOM faculty members, provided bluegrass-tinged music.
During an on-campus “Cheers to 50 Years” luncheon attended by alumni, employees, retirees and other members of the WVSOM community, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice praised the school for its growth and its long history of contributions to West Virginia.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done,” Justice said. “Those of you who were here in the beginning, think about what this place was then, and look at the unbelievable economic engine the ‘O school’ is today. I commend all the great people who have made this a reality.”
James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., WVSOM’s president, thanked luncheon attendees for helping the school fulfill the vision of its founders, who, 50 years ago, saw a need for a medical school that would provide physicians for a state experiencing a shortage of medical professionals.
“We are the leading producer of physicians in the state,” Nemitz said. “We’ve populated the small towns of West Virginia with Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, going from about 80 D.O.s in the state to almost 1,000. Our beautiful campus has grown from three buildings to 20 buildings, and we’ve grown from a handful of employees to nearly 300. WVSOM has a growing research enterprise, and we’re a leader in community engagement through our Center for Rural and Community Health and other programs that help West Virginians live healthier. We’re poised for growth, and WVSOM will continue to evolve as an institution that serves West Virginia first and foremost.”
Robert Holstein, D.O., a WVSOM Class of 1979 alumnus who chairs the school’s Board of Governors, urged an audience filled with leaders of the osteopathic medical profession to work to retain the qualities that set osteopathic medicine apart.
“The osteopathic profession is unique, and our uniqueness is our strength. If we lose the core value of who we are, then we lose our purpose and become assimilated and absorbed, to the detriment of the medical profession as a whole,” Holstein said.
Also during the luncheon, Manny Ballas, D.O., a Class of 1993 alumnus who is president of the WVSOM Alumni Association, presented the 2021 Distinguished Alumni of the Year award to Deborah Schmidt, D.O., a professor in the Department of Osteopathic Principles and Practice, and the 2022 award to Mark Waddell, D.O., an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences. Ballas also presented an Honorary Alumni award to Bill Martin, Ph.D., a retired WVSOM faculty member.
WVSOM students organized a silent auction that took place during the luncheon and continued during the Golden Jubilee, raising funds for scholarships to be awarded during the school’s annual Spring Awards Ceremony.
The weekend concluded with a donor appreciation breakfast for employees of businesses and other organizations that contributed financially to make the Golden Jubilee a success, and for the Lifetime Giving Leaders who have donated to the school through its nonprofit fundraising arm, the WVSOM Foundation.
The Golden Jubilee’s title sponsor was Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the platinum sponsor was WVU Medicine. Gold sponsors were the CAMC Institute for Academic Medicine and Dan and Marilyn Evans. Silver sponsors were Astorg Auto of Charleston, Bank of Monroe, Boone Memorial Hospital, James H. Deering, D.O., and Jodi S. Flanders, D.O., Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, Humana, Mako Medical, MonHealth, Jim Nemitz and Nancy Bulla, Rainelle Medical Center, Dr. Art and Missy Rubin, West Virginia State Medical Association, Whit Yates and Jack Carvalho, and ZMM Architects and Engineers. Bronze sponsors were Bailey & Wyant, Brick House Antiques and Wilson Properties, City National Bank, Rae Godsey, D.O., and Rob Blok, D.O., Greenbrier Valley Board of Realtors, Dr. and Mrs. Robert Holstein, HospiceCare Inc., Huntington National Bank, Jackson Kelly, Marshall Health, Mason and Barry Inc., Mountain Health Network, Dr. Lorenzo and Tina Pence, PostNet and Greenbrier Medical Arts Pharmacy, PracticeLink, Professional Business Products, Steven and Sharon Rubin, and Dr. Andy Tanner and Dewayne Duncan.
WVSOM has one more 50th-anniversary event scheduled. On Dec. 12, the school’s inaugural Founders Day celebration will honor the individuals whose early leadership led to WVSOM’s formation in 1972, including the four osteopathic physicians who founded the school, Carlton G. Apgar, D.O., O.J. Bailes, D.O., Donald C. Newell Sr., D.O., and Frank Wallington, D.O., as well as WVSOM’s first president, Roland P. Sharp, D.O. The event will include the planting of a time capsule filled with WVSOM memorabilia.