Graduates toss caps in the air

Commencement Ceremony celebrates 190 new physicians

It was a day when the end of one journey marked the beginning of another. At the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine’s (WVSOM) 47th annual Commencement Ceremony, graduation caps soared and hoods were draped over grads’ shoulders as the school celebrated the conferral of medical degrees to 190 new physicians.

The May 3 event brought thousands of guests to the school’s campus to watch students cross the stage to receive their diplomas. In addition to graduates’ family and friends and members of WVSOM’s administration, faculty and staff, the audience included Lewisburg Mayor Beverly White and Lewisburg city manager Misty Hill.

The event’s keynote address was provided by Ira Monka, D.O., president of the American Osteopathic Association, which represents more than 186,000 osteopathic physicians and students nationwide. Monka praised graduates’ resilience in succeeding despite entering medical school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s impossible to overlook the unprecedented challenges that have shaped your journey in starting medical school,” he said. “You adapted to remote classes, navigated virtual anatomy labs and practiced social distancing while studying medicine. But through it all, you refused to let circumstances dictate your future. Instead, you embraced innovation. Your creative minds and pioneering spirit will forever define your class. You turned challenges into opportunities, obstacles into stepping stones and setbacks into triumphs.”

Monka urged members of the class to serve as ambassadors of hope, healing and humility and to embrace the philosophy that makes osteopathic medicine a distinct medical tradition.

“You are joining the proud profession of osteopathic medicine, becoming physicians who recognize that a person’s state of health depends on the body, the mind and the spirit. You will work to become a trusted advocate and resource to patients. The true measure of physicians lies not in the accolades they receive or the titles they hold, but in the lives they touch and the difference they make in the world. You are here to make that difference,” he said.

Monka also pointed out that more new osteopathic physicians graduated in 2024 than in any previous year in the history of the profession. In all, he said, the number of osteopathic physicians has tripled in the past 30 years.

Olivia Rombold, president of WVSOM’s Class of 2024, shared a conversation she had with her grandmother. Rombold asked her classmates to remember those whose support made their achievements possible.

“We were talking about how I was soon graduating from medical school when my grandma recounted how she had to drop out of high school to shoulder the responsibility of driving her father to work each day so that he could put food on the table for her and her siblings,” she said. “Her story serves as a reminder of the countless individuals who have made sacrifices to pave the way for our successes. If it weren’t for the tenacity of those who came before us, we would not be here today embarking on careers as physicians. Their sacrifices have laid the groundwork upon which our dreams have been realized.”

In an introductory speech, James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., WVSOM’s president, advised graduates to treat their patients with empathy and compassion, and to extend that same care to themselves.

“I can’t wait to see the leaders I know you will become as you move on to the next phase of your medical career,” Nemitz said. “I encourage you to remember the values and principles that brought you to osteopathic medicine in the first place. Embrace your role as a healer and continue to prioritize the well-being of your patients. Above all, I encourage you to show compassion to your patients. And remember to take care of yourself, because in order to provide the best possible care for your patients, you need to be well.”

Others who spoke during the ceremony included leaders from the West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association, the WVSOM Board of Governors and the WVSOM Alumni Association, as well as Linda Boyd, D.O., WVSOM’s chief academic officer.

After graduates received their diplomas, Chelsea Feger, D.O., a WVSOM clinical sciences faculty member, led them in reciting the osteopathic oath, which acknowledges their transition from student to physician.

Following the ceremony, new physicians gathered on campus with their loved ones to celebrate their accomplishments after four years of rigorous study in classrooms, labs and clinical rotations.