VCOM—A Medical College with a Heartfelt Mission

by Roberta Bolduc

The Carolinas campus of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) sits on the edge of the historic area of Spartanburg, South Carolina. This is the gateway to the Northside community where students spend much of their time living VCOM’s mission through providing medical care and prevention in free and community clinics, shelters, and remote community centers.

That Osteopathic physicans (DOs) and allopathic physicians (MDs) are the only physicians fully licensed to practice all aspects of medicine, from prescribing medicine to performing surgery, is not a fact that is generally recognized. Neither is it widely known that DOs have additional training in osteopathic manipulation of the bones and muscles for safe and effective treatment without medication or surgery in some cases.

VCOM was established in 2001 in Virginia after members of the Henry W. Peters research foundation determined there was an extreme healthcare deficiency in the southwest part of the state. A 2002 study estimated a shortage of more than 100,000 physicians by 2020. The foundation’s vision was to provide health care for the medically underserved populations of Virginia and the southern Appalachian states.

VCOM’s rural focus provides an opportunity for students from rural and medically underserved areas in its targeted regions to become physicians. In addition, to ensure graduates can afford rural practice, VCOM maintains a tuition that is fifth lowest of all private medical schools in the country.

The college opened its first campus in the fall of 2003 in Blacksburg, Virginia. After several years of clinical partnership with Spartanburg Regional Health System, VCOM opened its second campus in Spartanburg in 2011. The third campus opened in 2015 in Auburn, Alabama making VCOM one of the largest medical schools in the country. Today 65% of VCOM graduates have chosen primary care residencies, helping to fulfill its mission to contribute to healthcare availability in Virginia and southern Appalachia.

At VCOM, in years one and two in addition to a core curriculum of body system study, students are introduced and led through clinical training by faculty including hands-on training. In the third year, students move through 10 core clinical rotations at College-affiliated hospitals and practices. In year four they choose specific rotation sites and specialties based on their unique interests.

Rebecca Bowers, DO, and owner of Fulcrum Osteopathic Wellness Clinic in Greenville, South Carolina is a clinical instructor at VCOM. She graduated from Midwestern Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2011. Bower’s internship was in Family Medicine. Her residency training was Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (NMMOMM). NMMOMM is her specialty.

Bowers is one of many clinical professors that teach in the Principles of Primary Care and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine course. This particular course runs for the first 3 of 4 years at VCOM. The curriculum includes teaching through lectures and hands-on labs/workshops.

Bowers also has students rotate at her practice in Greenville so they can get a glimpse of how what they are learning can look like in clinical practice. She has been an assistant clinical faculty member in the Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine department at VCOM-Carolinas since January 2015.

Hand-in-hand with VCOM’s mission to provide health services in economically challenged and rural locations is active recruitment of minority students who are under-represented in healthcare.

According to a study by U.S. News & World Report, VCOM ranks 3rd in African American student enrollment and 4th in the enrollment of Hispanic and Latin American students.

VCOM-Carolinas is located at 350 Howard St., Spartanburg, SC. For more information, visit VCOM.edu or call 864-327-9800.
Dr. Rebecca Bowers can be reached at Fulcrum Osteopathic Wellness Clinic, 37 Villa Rd., Ste. 313, Greenville. Call 864-417-5255 or visit FulcrumClinic.com.