Greenbrier County health officer shares story of osteopathic medical career

In a presentation during the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine’s (WVSOM) Celebrate Osteopathic Medicine (COM) Week, Carolyn “Bridgett” Morrison, D.O., discussed the journey that led her to pursue a medical career – one that has encompassed time spent as a primary care physician, an emergency medicine physician, a hospitalist, a nursing home physician and, most recently, a position as a public health leader on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her April 13 presentation, Morrison, who is health officer and medical director of the Greenbrier County Health Department, spoke of a childhood filled with obstacles including poverty, domestic abuse and ultimately the death of her mother at the hands of her father. She said she hoped her speech would encourage others who are struggling with difficult circumstances to follow their dreams.

“I share my personal story with you not for sympathy, but in hopes it will inspire you,” Morrison said. “Despite the cards you’re dealt, the situation you have at home, a lack of support, money, time or any other obstacle you can think of, if you want something bad enough, you can achieve it.”

Morrison, a 2007 WVSOM graduate, grew up being treated by osteopathic physicians. She said that osteopathic medicine, which teaches that the structure and function of organs are interrelated and adds training in musculoskeletal medicine to the skills taught in allopathic medical schools, was the only type of medicine she was aware of until her teen years, when she discovered that some physicians had D.O. degrees while others had M.D. degrees.

“I didn’t know there were two types of doctors; I only knew there were osteopathic doctors. They seemed like natural healers. They were kind and compassionate, and for me they were exceptional role models. I didn’t understand why everyone didn’t take a whole-body approach to medicine of body, mind and spirit,” she said.

Prior to becoming a physician, Morrison served in a variety of roles in emergency services, including working as a paramedic and 911 dispatcher and volunteering with a local fire department. She never thought of that work as being related to public health, but it ultimately helped lead her to pursue her current position as a health officer, where she has spent more than a year as a key player in battling the COVID-19 pandemic in Greenbrier County. She found that the key to success during a public health crisis is the ability to “roll with the punches.”

“We planned, we modified our plans based on new information, and everything was so dynamic,” Morrison said. “We had meetings locally and statewide. We started a local task force and then a state task force, and every ounce of information we could get, I would share with local providers. I started having daily calls with them and with EMS so that we could plan for the worst-case scenario and make sure everyone was well prepared. And this is what everyone did. The community just rises when it comes to things like this.”

Lewisburg Mayor Beverly White signed a proclamation declaring April 11-18 to be Celebrate Osteopathic Medicine Week in the city and April 14 to be “Standardized Patient Day in the Life of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine,” in honor of individuals from the community who have been trained to portray the role of a patient with a specific medical condition. White pointed out that the relationship between the school and the Lewisburg community is a mutually beneficial one.

“Having WVSOM in Lewisburg is important not just for the students but for the community,” she said. “COM Week gives our residents an insight into the students who are preparing to become physicians, and the standardized patient program helps allow students to practice on our residents before they go out into the communities they’ll serve when they complete their studies.”

Christina Wise, MAHP, is the standardized patient program coordinator of WVSOM’s Clinical Evaluation Center, where students in their first two years of medical school gain clinical exposure through various forms of simulation. She said standardized patients are an essential part of training students to practice osteopathic medicine.

“Standardized patients play a vital role in educating WVSOM’s future physicians,” Wise said. “After receiving extensive training, standardized patients’ portrayals allow students to learn and practice valuable proficiencies such as information gathering, physical examination skills, osteopathic treatment and empathetic communication. They are integral in evaluating a student’s performance and giving feedback.”

WVSOM’s COM Week is an annual event that accompanies the American Osteopathic Association’s National Osteopathic Medicine (NOM) Week, observed April 18-24 and intended to raise national awareness of the osteopathic medicine profession.

Date Added: 
Thursday, April 29, 2021