BLACKSBURG, Va. — Our country faces a critical shortage of doctors. And a school in the New River Valley is trying to do something about it.
The Osteopathic Medical School in Blacksburg now has two campuses and a record number of graduates, and some of them are about to head to a small town near you.
Your future doctor could be in a Blacksburg classroom, but it won't be without some blood, sweat, and tears.
"At first I came in really excited. I'm still very excited but it has been overwhelming. They told me it was like drinking out of a fire hose and it really is," student Jazma Phelps said.
There are just 29 osteopathic colleges in the country, as well as four branch campuses and four teaching locations.
The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, or VCOM for short, was the 20th. It's located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center and it was founded a decade ago.
"Ten years ago, some people in the state of Virginia said what is osteopathic medicine? And now they realize it's the full practice of medicine," said Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, the school's executive vice president.
Osteopathic physicians can choose any specialty, prescribe drugs, perform surgeries, and practice medicine anywhere in the United States.
The school in Blacksburg is about to graduate its 933rd physician, and VCOM has had one main mission since day one.
"Our mission is to recruit from and train in and hopefully come back to southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina," said Jan Wilcox, the school's vice dean.
The school's first graduating class is just completing their residencies.
Out of the 133 who graduated in 2007, 44 have already committed to practice in places like Stuart, Giles, and Wytheville. There is a critical need for physicians in these rural areas.
"I hate to see a little old lady driving three hours just to get her high blood pressure pills refilled," said Larry Carpio, a student
VCOM is about to graduate its largest class.
The school has even opened a second location just south of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Not bad for a school no one heard of 10 years ago.