From staff reports
Every doctor pledges to care for and protect his or her patients, swearing to uphold the principles of the ancient Hippocractic oath. On Saturday, 106 people took that pledge during the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine commencement ceremony, joining legions of physicians and surgeons serving Ohio and the nation.
Members of the Class of 2008 joined an alumni network of 2,461 doctors as they received their doctor of osteopathic medicine degrees during commencement exercises held at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium.
The ceremony marked a milestone in the presidency of Roderick J. McDavis, who noted the special role OU-COM's 29th class of graduates has played during his tenure.
"The day after I was inaugurated as Ohio University's 20th president, I performed my first official act as president and greeted you, the Class of 2008," McDavis said, referencing the class's convocation in August 2004. "It was a great honor to share that day with you, and welcome you into the OU-COM community."
Service to Ohio
McDavis, along with OU-COM Dean John A. Brose, D.O., and commencement speaker Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, highlighted the class's commitment to service within Ohio.
He noted that 62 percent of OU-COM's graduates practice within the state, with 55 percent serving as primary care providers, the highest percentages of any Ohio medical school.
"OU-COM is an outstanding example of our larger university mission," McDavis said.
Brunner similarly charged class members to become "an extension of the university's commitment to service" as they continue their careers in health care.
"Service to those in need is the highest calling," said Brunner, who has served as an advocate for underserved populations through her work with election reform and her ongoing efforts to establish a life-quality index intended to improve health care for Ohioans.
"In the end, all you leave behind is what you have done for others," she said.
Brose recognized the class as members of America's most rapidly growing health-care profession, osteopathic medicine, and highlighted OU-COM's ongoing outreach.
"Almost every day for the last 12 years, staff members from our community service program have taken two 40-foot vans to parking lots, churches, schools, libraries and food pantries in 21 Ohio counties to provide low-cost or free health care to uninsured, underinsured and low-income residents," Brose said. "Our staff have given over 100,000 immunizations through the childhood immunization program and traveled almost 13,000 miles to ensure that children -- regardless of their economic or insurance status -- had proper care."
Brose also noted that in addition to work within the state, OU-COM outreach extends to all areas of the country and to other countries such as Kenya, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador.
A sense of accomplishment
"It's been an incredible eight years," said Joseph Busek, one of 14 OU-COM graduates who previously earned undergraduate degrees at Ohio University. "It's been a tremendous amount of work, but all worth it. I feel extremely lucky to have spent my academic career here in Athens."
Added Christopher Nixon, "It's incredible to know that you've finally accomplished a feat as awesome as becoming a physician."
Busek and Nixon are among the graduates who will continue to practice in Ohio. Busek is headed to Portsmouth, where he will complete a residency in emergency medicine. Nixon will join his wife Ramona, a 2005 OU-COM graduate, and the couple's five month-old son in Columbus, where Nixon will practice family medicine.
Taking it to 'the next level'
From his early experience as a firefighter and emergency medical technician in his hometown of Russell, Ohio, to his volunteer work after Hurricane Katrina and in rural Belize, Eric Beck has been among the first to respond to the needs of his own community and beyond.
"I have always made service a personal mission, so I was looking for a medical school that made service a priority," said Beck. "It was the best fit for taking my service to the next level."
Beck received the Dean's Award, recognizing the personal and professional character he has displayed throughout his four years. He was also one of a dozen Centers for Osteopathic Research and Education (CORE) Award recipients. The CORE system extends the reach of OU-COM's service to 23 hospitals and medical facilities throughout the state.
In July, Beck will begin a residency in emergency medicine and a fellowship in emergency medical services special operations and disaster medicine at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.
To protect and serve
The commitment to service is the very basis of the work awaiting newly conferred doctor Steve Halla.
"The military is an area that is desperately in need of doctors," said Halla, one of eight OU-COM graduates who has been commissioned in the United States armed forces.
"The commitment to serve here at Ohio University and the commitment to serve in the U.S. Air Force are both based on supporting your fellow man," said Halla, who is due to report to the Offutt Military Base in Omaha, Neb., less than 36 hours following Saturday's ceremony.
"I am doing a family medicine residency in flight medicine," Halla said. "Basically, my focus will be to ensure a safe working environment for the Air Force and to make sure that (the officers) are healthy enough to fly."
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Updated at 8:13 a.m. June 8.