LEWISBURG, WV (LOOTPRESS) – The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM), the state’s largest medical school, was featured in a segment of PBS NewsHour that aired April 26 and is available for viewing at the PBS website.
The segment, titled “Next Generation of Doctors Prepares to Tackle Rural Health Care Shortage in West Virginia,” was part of the internationally broadcast program’s “Rural Rx” series, which explores the forces shaping rural health care in America. Reporters traveled to West Virginia, Alabama, Colorado, New York and Texas to understand how health care is implemented outside major U.S. cities.
The segment pointed out that nearly two-thirds of communities with shortages of primary care physicians are in rural areas. As a school whose mission includes an emphasis on producing students prepared to practice in rural areas, WVSOM was selected as a focus of the segment devoted to West Virginia. Filming took place in March and included interviews with current students, administrators and a WVSOM Class of 2020 alumnus.
Abundance Hunt, of Lewisburg, W.Va., is a student in WVSOM’s Class of 2024 and a member of the school’s Rural Health Initiative, a program designed to enhance WVSOM’s rural and underserved primary care curriculum. Students in the program participate in experiences that provide opportunities to learn about local industries and the daily lives of West Virginians.
Earlier this year, Hunt received a Foundation Scholar award, a financial incentive given to students who plan to stay in West Virginia to practice after residency. She said in the segment that rural physicians often form bonds with their patients that extend beyond clinical settings.
“There’s so much more to medicine than just going to the doctor, and that’s a lot to do with the trust and the relationship that they have, especially with rural physicians,” Hunt said. “They are a big part of the community. They are who people trust.”
Linda Boyd, D.O., WVSOM’s vice president for academic affairs and dean, explained how the Rural Health Initiative helps the school train physicians who are uniquely qualified to serve small communities.
“[The program] recruits students who are from a rural area and/or have a strong commitment to practice in a rural area, because some students come in and say, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to be a country doc,’” Boyd said. “They are assigned to some of the smaller hospitals around the state that are considered a rural area and that can provide rural opportunities for them in training. They’re working alongside doctors who’ve committed to this life.”
Drema Hill, Ph.D., MSP, oversees WVSOM’s Center for Rural and Community Health as part of her role as the school’s vice president for community engagement and development. She spoke about the strategy the center uses to bring members of the WVSOM community together with residents of Lewisburg and surrounding areas in an effort to improve community health.
“We bring the community in and we ask them, ‘What’s the need?’ And we listen to them,” Hill said. “Then we develop programming around that, instead of it being the other way around.”
James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., WVSOM’s president, said he believes many of the health challenges the Mountain State is facing can be addressed from within.
“Part of what I have seen as successful here in West Virginia is growing your own, having people come from the area, they go to medical school in the state, they end up going to their residency in the state, and they end up staying, because their families are here and they love the people and the land,” he said.
Adam Polinik, D.O., a 2020 WVSOM graduate, also was highlighted in the segment.
The full PBS NewsHour piece can be viewed at www.pbs.org/newshour/show/young-doctors-prepare-to-tackle-rural-healthcare-shortage-in-west-virginia.