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WCU osteopathic class ready for orientation

First-of-its-kind school of medicine in state shows William Carey’s vision

Mississippi will soon have its second school of medicine when the College of Osteopathic Medicine opens at William Carey University in Hattiesburg. 

“This is not only a great addition to William Carey’s curriculum and campus, but it is a great addition to our state,” said Barbara Hamilton, executive assistant to the president.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, the field of osteopathic medicine was founded in the late 1800s in Kirksville, Mo., by a medical doctor who recognized that the medical practices of the day often caused more harm than good. He focused on developing a system of medical care that would promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself and called this system of medicine osteopathy, now known as osteopathic medicine. 

The College of Osteopathic Medicine is set to open this fall at William Carey University in Hattiesburg.

The College of Osteopathic Medicine is set to open this fall at William Carey University in Hattiesburg.

Osteopathic physicians, also known as DOs, work in partnership with their patients. They consider the impact that lifestyle and community have on the health of each individual, and they work to break down barriers to good health. DOs are licensed to practice the full scope of medicine in all 50 states. They practice in all types of environments, including the military, and in all types of specialties, from family medicine to obstetrics, surgery, and aerospace medicine. 


There are approximately 55,000 fully licensed osteopathic physicians in the United States, practicing the entire scope of modern medicine. They bring a patient-centered, holistic, hands-on approach to diagnosing and treating illness and injury. Today, nearly one in five medical students in the U.S. is training to be an osteopathic physician. Osteopathic physicians can choose any specialty, prescribe drugs, perform surgeries and practice medicine anywhere in the U.S.

On Oct. 23, 2007, the board of trustees at William Carey University (WCU) unanimously voted to authorize Dr. Tommy King, WCU president, to employ a dean for the College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM). The rationale was to open the COM to address the severe shortage of physicians in Mississippi and surrounding states and to impact the healthcare of rural Mississippians.

In Jan. 2008, Michael K. Murphy, D.O., was employed to aid in accomplishing that goal. On March 3, 2008, the college was officially established. William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine was awarded provisional accreditation by the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation at its meeting Sept. 12-13, 2009.

The inaugural class of the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine (WCU-COM), will begin orientation in Hattiesburg Aug. 16. A White Coat Ceremony to celebrate their entrance into the medical profession will be held Aug. 21. A host of family, friends, and dignitaries will witness the historic ceremony as faculty of the WCU-COM and member of the Osteopathic Medical profession from throughout the mid-south welcome the students into the osteopathic profession. Each student will be ceremonially “cloaked” with their white coat and will take the osteopathic oath of commitment.

“This White Coat Ceremony is the culmination of nearly four years of intense work on the part of William Carey’s board of trustees, administration, supporters and faculty of the COM,” said King. “It is a great day for Carey, Hattiesburg and the State of Mississippi.”

“The students selected are excellent,” said Dr. Michael Murphy, vice president and dean of the WCU-COM. According to Murphy, the inaugural class is composed of 108 students selected from a pool of more than 1,100 applications, and is composed of 45 percent female and 54 percent male students. Ninety-five percent of the class is from the south and 48 of them are from Mississippi. The average age of the class is 25.7 years. Ten are graduates of WCU’s new master of biomedical sciences degree program. Ten percent of the class are African-Americans, a number that is significantly above the national average.

First-year classes will include gross anatomy with full dissection and neuro-anatomy, microanatomy, medical physiology, medical biochemistry/nutrition, genetics, immunology, physical diagnosis, osteopathic principles and practice, oral health, epidemiology, disaster medicine and introduction to clinical community and behavioral medicine.

“The academic and clinical buildings are new, state-of-the-art and ready for the first class in Aug. 2010,” said Murphy. “The 27 full- and part-time faculty who were selected to teach our students are top notch, with an average of over 20 years of teaching experience. They understand the mission and vision of WCU-COM and are eager to solidify the curriculum and start the process of teaching students to be exceptional osteopathic physicians.” 

William Carey University’s $11-million College of Osteopathic Medicine will consist of three new connected buildings. The Academic building is now open and the Medical Arts building will be opening in early August. The Asbury Administration Center is scheduled for completion in December. The WCU-COM is one of 26 such institutions in the United States and the only one in the mid-South regions. 

According to Dr. Scott Hummel, vice-president for advancement, the COM has received a deferred gift that will eventually endow a teaching chair and a scholarship.


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