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West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine White Coat Ceremony speaker to students: ‘Seize this opportunity’

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LEWISBURG, W.Va. – One by one, first-year medical students participating in the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine’s (WVSOM) Convocation and White Coat Ceremony crossed the stage to receive the coats that represent the beginning of their career in health care service, cheered on by an audience of family, friends, WVSOM employees and alumni.

At the ceremony, which took place Friday, Sept. 22, on the school’s Lewisburg campus, keynote speaker L. Faith Payne, D.O., welcomed students in WVSOM’s Class of 2027 into the medical profession in an address that touched on the importance of working hard, following one’s own path and seeking justice.

First-year medical students participated in the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine’s Convocation and White Coat Ceremony on Friday.

Payne, a WVSOM Class of 2007 alumna, began on an upbeat note by inviting James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., WVSOM’s president, to briefly dance with her to the song “Lose Yourself,” by Eminem, whose lyrics about once-in-a-lifetime opportunities echoed throughout Payne’s speech. She told students that their four years of medical school will be difficult but rewarding, and urged them to make the most of their time.

“You’re here representing the next generation of osteopathic physicians. Seize this opportunity,” she said. “I want to encourage you to be in the moment. Soak in every experience. Get to work early and stay late when necessary. You’ve made it this far because of your willpower, your work ethic and your drive to achieve. You will need to tap into that energy source and motivation during the next several years.”

Payne grew up in the small town of Poca, W.Va., and attended college at Marshall University before earning a medical degree from WVSOM. She completed a urological surgery residency at Charleston Area Medical Center and has practiced urology in Beckley, W.Va., since 2012. Payne’s professional appointments include membership in the West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association’s Board of Trustees and Raleigh General Hospital’s Board of Trustees. She also serves on the board of the WVSOM Alumni Association.

Keynote speaker L. Faith Payne, D.O., welcomed students in WVSOM’s Class of 2027 into the medical profession. Courtesy photo.

She said her rural upbringing didn’t limit her access to medical school, and asked students to remember that the WVSOM community is here to help them achieve their goals.

“Boundaries are defined not by how we start, but by how we push beyond them,” Payne said. “I had a dream, a drive, a determination to succeed. Now, as I stand in front of you as a board-certified urological surgeon, I can tell you that I did not know my path would lead me here today. Never forget that you are loved and supported by this incredible institution that is rooted in history, excellence and depth. You can and will do great things.”

Payne also reminded students that osteopathic medicine — a profession that dates to the late 19th century and is underpinned by the philosophy that the patient is a unit of mind, body and spirit — is built on a tradition of excellence and fairness.

“You will have a platform from which growth, innovation, transformation and change will blossom. Maybe you will use your platform as a small-town physician to heal and treat generations of families. Will your platform be one of quality and justice? Will you take care of the less fortunate and poor without judging them? Whatever your platform, know that it was built by the hard work and the dedication of not only our founding fathers, but all those that have passed through,” Payne said.

2023 White Coat

In an introduction to the ceremony, Nemitz told students that their white coats represent not only a privilege, but a responsibility.

“The white coat symbolizes the beginning of your four-year journey into the osteopathic medical profession. You’ll need to earn that white coat every day of your career. It comes with awesome responsibilities and obligations to your community and to society as a whole,” Nemitz said.

Linda Boyd, D.O., WVSOM’s vice president for academic affairs and dean and chief academic officer, who led students in reciting an oath of commitment at the ceremony’s end, reminded students’ families that they play a crucial role in their loved ones’ accomplishments.

Linda Boyd

“You are an important part in the success of your student,” Boyd said. “Give them space when they can’t spend a lot of time on the phone. They really do have to study a lot in medical school. Help your student by sending them words of encouragement and support. Most of all, just listen, even if you don’t understand what they’re talking about. It helps more than you can know.”

Other White Coat Ceremony speakers included Randall Belt, D.O., chair of the WVSOM Board of Governors, and Manuel Ballas, D.O., president of the WVSOM Alumni Association.

WVSOM is a national leader in educating osteopathic physicians for primary care medicine in rural areas. Visit WVSOM online at www.wvsom.edu