WVSOM Student, Faculty Member Win Rural Awards

A West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) fourth-year student and faculty member were recognized for their contributions to rural health in West Virginia.

Dimitri Tito received an award for “Outstanding Rural Health Student of the Year” during the West Virginia Rural Health Association’s annual West Virginia Rural Health Conference. Additionally, Bob Foster, D.O., WVSOM’s associate dean for osteopathic medical education, received the 2019 “Outstanding Rural Health Provider” award.  

The Outstanding Rural Health Student of the Year award recognizes extraordinary student activities with significant accomplishments in rural health. The Outstanding Rural Health Provider award recognizes a health care professional who has exhibited outstanding leadership in the improvement of health care services in rural areas of West Virginia.

Foster moved to West Virginia in 1978 to teach at WVSOM. He previously served as associate dean for clinical education, in charge of clinical experiences for third- and fourth-year students at hospitals and clinics throughout West Virginia and from Florida to Michigan. Foster said he was shocked to learn he would be recognized for his career in rural health.

“It was an unexpected honor as a provider who no longer has a clinical practice,” Foster said. “It validated the whole reason I left private practice in Tucson, Ariz., to move to West Virginia with a passion for rural medicine and a fledgling medical school whose whole mission was to train rural primary care physicians. That has been my life’s journey.”

Tito, a native of the Central African country of Cameroon, moved to the U.S. when he was 16 years old. He said he understands that the Appalachian region is a largely underserved population, much like his native country. That is why he is working to fulfill his dream of becoming a physician in a rural or underserved area while completing his final year of rotations.

Tito said he was honored to receive the recognition, which is the fruit of several years of dedication to give back to the rural community.

“I left my native country at a young age for the United States. Before and after the move, I grew up in rural community neighborhoods with limited access to medical resources. This way of living has shaped me to be more understanding of the needs of underserved populations,” he said. “This award shows my dedication to help improve the health of underserved populations. It means a lot to me to make a difference in rural communities; it comes from the heart. WVSOM has played a crucial part in allowing students to live this mission.”

Tito has been involved with rural programs and student leadership throughout medical school. He is involved in the honors fraternity Sigma Sigma Phi, has been class president since his second year and is a member of WVSOM’s Rural Health Initiative program. He volunteered in recovery efforts in the aftermath of the 2016 West Virginia floods, participated in WVSOM Cares volunteer events, has provided blood pressure screenings at the State Fair of West Virginia and was a member of the Cultural Integrity Committee, which works to organize culturally diverse standardized patient encounters as learning opportunities for students.

Tito also began The Body Screening Project, which is a student-run rural community program providing access to free health screening services to underserved populations. The program primarily serves residents of Grant and Hardy counties in West Virginia, and aims to identify previously unknown disease-related risk factors in rural residents and offer health maintenance education while allowing medical students to integrate their knowledge into clinical practice.

Foster is board certified in family practice and osteopathic manipulative medicine. His practice in family medicine included obstetrics and emergency medicine, and he was the first D.O. to practice at Greenbrier Valley Hospital. He was the medical examiner for Greenbrier County for 38 years and worked for several years at the Greenbrier Manor nursing home. Foster has served on the local boards of numerous organizations and spent 11 years on the West Virginia Licensing Board for Osteopathic Physicians, serving as president during his final three years.

“This award belongs to WVSOM, its students, graduates, faculty, staff and administration,” Foster said. “This school and its location is a miraculous thing. Everyone associated with it has passion and dedication to its mission. I am so blessed to have been able to spend a large part of my journey with WVSOM, its people and the state of West Virginia.”

WVSOM President James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., said Tito and Foster exemplify what it means to live WVSOM’s mission and remain dedicated to the health care needs of West Virginians.

“It is such a privilege to have two people from WVSOM recognized as the outstanding rural health provider and outstanding student when our school’s mission emphasizes serving rural communities,” he said. “Dr. Foster and Dimitri have set a perfect example of how important it is to provide compassionate care for patients in underserved areas of the state, but they are just two of the many representatives of WVSOM who go above and beyond every day to make a rural impact.”

WVSOM is a national leader in educating osteopathic physicians for primary care medicine in rural areas. Visit WVSOM online at www.wvsom.edu. 

Date Added: 
Wednesday, October 16, 2019