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More than 70 percent of OU-HCOM graduates to remain in Ohio, and 60 percent will enter primary care residencies

Exuberant ceremony highlights women and minorities, primary care and military service


(ATHENS, Ohio – May 13, 2013) More than 60 percent of the 109 graduates who received their degrees of doctor of osteopathic medicine from the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM) are entering a primary care residency, and 72 percent plan to practice in Ohio.


The students accepted into primary care residency programs will serve in front-line specialties like internal medicine, pediatrics and family medicine.


OU-HCOM Executive Dean Kenneth H. Johnson, D.O., noted that the impressive number of graduates entering primary care and remaining in Ohio to practice reflects the commitment of the college to becoming a national leader in educating primary care physicians.


“At a time when our nation is recognizing the need to recruit and retain outstanding family physicians, we are proud that 60 percent of this graduating class will pursue a primary care specialty,” Dr. Johnson told the graduates and the more than 1,500 audience members at the college’s 35th Commencement held at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium on Saturday, May 11, 2013.


Within the next decade, experts predict a national shortage of more than 45,000 primary care physicians, with people living in rural or inner-city medically underserved areas being hit the hardest. OU-HCOM is aggressively addressing that shortage, Dr. Johnson said.


Already, OU-HCOM leads all Ohio medical schools with the highest percentage of graduates – currently about 60 percent ­– practicing in primary care and remaining in the state to practice.


In March, U.S. News & World Report ranked OU-HCOM 11th in the country in producing primary care physicians based on a peer assessment survey. The same survey ranked the college 17th for graduates who practice family medicine. This is expected to increase with the opening of two new extension campuses in Ohio, one in Dublin in 2014, the other in the Cleveland area in 2015.

During his keynote address, William Anderson, D.O., made the point that OU-HCOM was a leader in diversity in medicine and medical school graduates, as well.

With the delivery of a Baptist preacher, as he described it, Dr. Anderson, an acclaimed civil rights champion, physician and surgeon, and educator, launched into his personal history with OU-HCOM, the college’s track record with diversity, and, of course, advice for graduates gleaned from his incredible career as a physician and leader in the osteopathic profession.


His advice to the graduates: Don’t do anything stupid. He explained by asking them to know what they can – and cannot – do. Dr. Anderson described a humbling experience he blamed on what he called his arrogance as a surgeon. Confident that he was capable of repairing a leaky roof, he fell from a ladder and severely injured himself. When his wife tried to help him from the ground, “I said, ’no. I want to lie here and reflect upon what I cannot do’.”


Following Dr. Anderson’s medical education at the Des Moines Still College of Osteopathy and his internship at the Flint Osteopathic Hospital in Michigan, he established a medical practice in Albany, Ga.. There, he was instrumental in founding the Albany movement, also serving as its first president. The movement is considered the first mass movement in the modern civil rights struggle with the goal of desegregation of an entire community. In December 1961, the movement resulted in the jailing of more than 1,000 African-Americans in southwestern Georgia during a one-week period.


As an interesting aside: Dr. Anderson sought support from two old friends for this cause — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a close friend of his wife’s brother, and Dr. Ralph Abernathy, whom he had befriended during college.


Dr. Anderson told the graduates about how much the osteopathic medical profession has changed since his own graduation in 1956.


“There were then about 15,000 practicing osteopathic physicians, graduating from five colleges …  licensed in only 26 states … denied commissions as medical officers in all branches of the military and public services,” Dr. Anderson recalled. “Today I come to welcome you to the fastest growing profession in the U.S. … nearly 100,000 strong (counting students) … licensed in all 50 states and most foreign countries … holding commissions as medical officers in all branches of the military and public services.”


Dr. Anderson also noted how the diversity of the osteopathic medical profession has changed; his own class had only one woman and few minorities. He recalled encouraging Barbara Ross-Lee, D.O., a student of his, to apply for the dean’s position at OU-HCOM in 1993, becoming not only the first African-American woman to lead a U.S. medical school but one of the first women to do so. Gazing out at the graduates – slightly more than one-half of whom are women and 28 percent minority – he marveled at how many of this year’s student award winners were female. Singling out Class President LaQuatre Rhodes, D.O. (’13), winner of the college’s Pediatric Award, Dr. Anderson – the first African-American president of the AOA – asked, "When are you going to be the president of the American Osteopathic Association?”


“What you see here is the future leaders of the osteopathic profession,” he told the audience.


In her address, Dr. Rhodes gave a poignant and very funny account of various tribulations of the past four years of medical school, comparing each year and clinical rotations to playground equipment.


“The merry-go-round was the first stop. We were spinning out of control with joy and happiness after being accepted into medical school,” Dr. Rhodes said. “The first two years were analogous to a see-saw. It was during this time we learned how to balance the demands of our studies, leadership roles, community service and personal lives.”


“Clinical rotations were like an opportunity to try lots of different playground games. Experiencing the different medical specialties allowed us to find our niche and to see where we did not fit in,” she said. Would she do it again, Rhodes asked herself?


“Absolutely not, but I was willing to go through it once. I would not trade the experiences, knowledge, mentors, and friends gained along the way for anything.”


Citing a South African proverb, Dr. Rhodes hinted at the unknown excitement that awaits her classmates as physicians.


“Each of us had a message or moment that sparked our interest in becoming physicians. Our belief is in providing the best care for our patients by sharing our ability, our enthusiasm, our knowledge and compassion, with others. So class of 2013, share these gifts! Continue to hold on to your love for medicine and the challenges that accompany it as the adventure continues in residency and the years beyond,” said Dr. Rhodes, who will enter a pediatrics residency program at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center this summer.


Dr. Johnson, presiding over his first Commencement since becoming executive dean last year, told the graduates that as osteopathic physicians, they carry a special gift: the ability to diagnose and treat patients with their hands.


“In the medical profession, the skills you have acquired are unique and important. Working with your hands can build bridges to your patients: When a patient lets you into his or her personal space through touch, a powerful thing happens. The door to a close trusting relationship is opened. Trust is one of the most powerful ways that we as physicians can help our patients,” Dr. Johnson said.


Military graduates earn promotion


Three of this year’s graduates will serve military medical residencies beginning this summer. “They embark on careers in service to our nation as they care for our service members and their families, here and around the world. We extend our utmost gratitude and salute their service to our country,” Dr. Johnson said.


“Having had four years of active duty in the military myself, we depend upon our military doctors to look after the health needs of our families while we are serving away, and take care of us when we are home and to keep us in good shape to do our duties,” said Stephen Davis, Ph.D., director of faculty development and an associate professor of faculty development who himself is retired from the U.S. Air Force. “I have great confidence in them and I have been quite pleased to have been their mentor over the last four years.”


After Saturday’s ceremony, Michelle Hobbs, D.O. (’13) and Nhu-An Nguyen, D.O., (’13), were promoted from the rank of first lieutenant to that of captain in the U.S. Air Force. Hobbs will begin a residency in June in obstetrics and gynecology at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia, and Nguyen will enter an internal medicine residency at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi. Musammar Ghani, D.O. (’13), already was promoted to captain in the Army National Guard.


Dr. Hobbs said she chose to enter the primary care field of obstetrics and gynecology because she fell in love with the specialty during her third-year rotations at Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky. “Every other rotation I did I kept thinking to myself, ‘how would this person be treated if they were pregnant as well.” That made me realize that God was sending me a message,” she said.


Research experience lands graduate at prestigious institute

OU-HCOM graduate Sung-Min Cho, D.O. (’13), credited earning a residency at the institution of his top choice -- Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Institute -- to the research opportunities he was afforded at OU-HCOM.


“Every interview I went on asked about my research,” Dr. Cho said, explaining his research focused on ischemia and stroke – what he called the “bread and butter” of neurological medicine. “The research really strengthened my application. It showed I was interested in neurological science and committed to this field.”


Cho said it was during his clinical rotation in neurology that he decided to enter the field. He conducted about six months of research with Yang Li, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neuroscience, who also hooded Dr. Cho as his mentor at Commencement. Dr. Cho described Dr. Li as “a blessing in my life.”


“The environment at OU-HCOM really supports research,” Dr. Cho added. “My experience here makes me want to do research in my residency at the Cleveland Clinic, and thanks to my research at OU-HCOM I now have no fear of getting into a research project.”


He begins at the Cleveland Clinic in June. In the meantime, Dr. Cho said he plans on doing some traveling and spending time with his wife, Sunyoung Park Cho,

and their two children.


New orthopedic surgeon joins elite group


About 700 physicians complete orthopedic residency training each year in the United States, but only about 10 percent of the nation’s current orthopedic surgery residents are women. This year, OU-HCOM graduate Kristin Cola, D.O. (’13), is one of them.


Dr. Cola is one of two individuals accepted into the orthopedic surgery residency program at Summa Western Reserve Hospital in Cuyahoga Falls, where she conducted her third- and fourth-year rotations. She knows she’s going into a historically male-dominated field, but it’s something she’s known she’s wanted to do since high school.


“Right now, the field of orthopedic surgery is still looked at like a boys’ club,” Dr. Cola explained. “You walk into the profession being the only girl. When you rotate, you’re the only female. But I think anybody can do it.”


In fact, Dr. Cola said she believes part of what made her application for the residency at Summa Western Reserve Hospital stand out is the fact that she is a woman.


“The individuals interviewing you for the residency remember you just because you’re one of the few women they interviewed or the only woman they interviewed,” she said. “I was the only female at some of my interviews.”


Dr. Cola also credited her activities outside of the classroom with helping her earn her residency. In addition to her volunteer work, she was involved in OU-HCOM’s student government, the Surgery Club and the Pediatrics Club, and was a member of Sigma Sigma Phi, the national osteopathic medicine honors fraternity for medical students training to be D.O.s.


In discussing her achievements, Dr. Cola also acknowledged OU-HCOM and, specifically, its extensive network of alumni and the CORE system.


“I think OU-HCOM gives you a sense of confidence that you can pursue your dream – whatever that is – and they’ll help you do it. Ohio has a lot of opportunities, and OU-HCOM is just a stepping stone to a lot of those.”

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Last updated: 01/28/2016