WVSOM event emphasizes benefits of practicing medicine in rural communities


LEWISBURG, W.Va. – Medical students and their significant others heard personal stories from physicians who have spent their careers practicing rural medicine when the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) hosted its ninth annual Rural Practice Day on March 6.


The aim of Rural Practice Day, a program of the school’s Rural Health Initiative, is to recruit, inspire and encourage WVSOM students to live and work in rural communities. Rural doctors offered stories about the benefits and rewards of serving in underserved areas while answering questions from current students who are considering following a similar path.


Second-year student Nick Yost said the event offered a way for students to take a step back from the stress of medical school and look at the bigger picture.


“For me, a West Virginia resident, it was a great opportunity to hear from rural doctors and learn about my future role in a rural setting,” Yost said. “My goal is to be an integrated member of my community, whether that means coaching little league, serving on town council or taking on other roles. Having the opportunity to hear these stories motivates me to keep pressing on and working hard for my future patients.”


In a panel titled “Tales of Rural Physicians in Rural Communities,” WVSOM alumni Elizabeth Clark, D.O., Jan Ebbert, D.O., Jerry O’Loughlin, D.O., and Robert Snuffer, D.O., described anecdotes from their own rural careers. “Surviving and Thriving: The Making of Rural Physicians” showcased the experiences of significant others of WVSOM students and faculty, including John Kelly, LSW, Heidi Tavares and Samantha Federico, president of the Student Advocate Association, which is made up of spouses of WVSOM students. Panelists discussed ways to support a partner who is managing the rigorous schedule medical school requires, and emphasized that it’s important for partners to have support systems as well.


The panel “How I Found $$” brought together WVSOM alumni John Ford, D.O., Rob Tavares, D.O., and Mark Yost, D.O., along with Nick Yost, to share their experiences in finding financial incentives and other methods for funding medical school. In a final session, “Embracing a Unique Rural Community,” Clark described her 23 years spent working with an Apache population on a reservation, illustrating that each rural population is different from the next.


Rebecca Thacker, WVSOM’s Rural Health Initiative program coordinator, said she has seen firsthand that Rural Practice Day has a wide-ranging impact on osteopathic medical students.


“It was exciting to hear so many stories and candid responses. One first-year student let me know that this was just what he needed to remind him why he is pursuing rural medicine,” Thacker said. “We hope attendees gained a better understanding of what living and working in a rural area entails, from the very practical to the potentially profound.”


Though WVSOM produces graduates who work in a variety of medical specialties, rural medicine is one of the main focuses of the school’s mission. WVSOM is No. 1 among all medical schools in the nation graduating physicians who practice in rural areas, according to the journal Academic Medicine.


In all, 92 people participated in this year’s Rural Practice Day, including 56 students. Donated door prizes were distributed to attendees, including an iPad Mini, gift cards from Otter & Oak and Amazon, a Yeti cooler, a blanket, Blenko glass, handmade soap, Holl’s chocolates, tickets to tour the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, W.Va., and swag bags assembled by WVSOM’s Statewide Campus and the WVSOM Alumni Association.

Date Added: 
Thursday, March 19, 2020