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New dean lays groundwork for Liberty’s medical school BY MITZI BIBLE

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ince his first full day at Liberty University in April, Dr. Ronnie Martin has been hard at work assembling a team of men and women who will make history at Liberty as they establish the new College of Osteopathic Medicine. Plans for the medical school were announced last fall, when the Virginia Tobacco Commission approved a $12 million grant for a school of osteopathic medicine and an expanded health sciences school, to be built on a portion of campus in Campbell County. Construction on a $40 million facility is set to begin this summer and expected to be completed in January 2014. The

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105,000-square-foot building will be located near where U.S. 29 and U.S. 460 meet, close to Lynchburg Regional Airport. It will look down over the intramural fields on Campus East. “We’re going to have a top-notch facility. When we get through, we will have a facility that rivals any medical school in the world,” said Martin. Liberty’s medical school will become the sixth to be established in the state. Graduates will receive a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). “We have a responsibility to train our students so they are qualified to go into any specialty they want to enter,” Martin said. “We will try to influence them by the design of our curriculum, and the role models and mentors that we will put in front of them, to go into what we feel are the needed specialties for this country: primary care and preventative medicine, as well as ‘first point of contact’ specialties, such as general surgery or emergency medicine.” Martin came to Liberty from the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) in Blacksburg, Va., where he served as a professor, associate regional dean, associate dean for Clinical Education, and vice dean for Postgraduate Affairs. Liberty has had a longstanding, supportive relationship with VCOM and that will continue, Martin said. Martin was a practicing physician for

more than 20 years, serving as an emergency room doctor, a family physician, and a director of medical clinics. Hiring Martin to lead the new venture was one of the first steps in an accreditation process that could take up to 36 months to complete. Liberty is seeking accreditation through the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Martin said if the accreditation moves ahead on schedule and permission is granted by the agencies, the school can begin to recruit students in the fall of 2013, with plans to enroll 150 students each year. The establishment of a medical school at Liberty comes at the right time, he said, calling the need for health services and physicians in the state, especially in the Southside, “tremendous.” He said 67 percent of the Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) of the Southside region are underserved, “many in crisis.” (Areas are considered HPSAs when there is less than one physician for every 3,500 patients). “We know that physicians are more likely to practice where they train, yet Virginia has less than 40 percent of its medical school graduates who remain in the state,” he said. The Virginia Department of Health has


Liberty Journal Summer 2012