Justice opposed to privatizing WV School of Osteopathic Medicine

Staff reports

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice says he doesn’t like the idea of privatizing the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg.

Sen. Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier, has already voiced his opposition to legislation sponsored by Senate Government Organization Committee Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, that would pull state funding from the state osteopathic school in Lewisburg and convert it to nonprofit status.

Miller has insisted the osteopathic school has an important role in training osteopaths to serve rural West Virginia. He said he’s worried tuition rates would go up and make the school unaffordable if state funding is pulled or that someone would buy the school and move it out of state.

Now Justice, in a Feb. 14 news release, added his voice to the opposition, saying it makes “absolutely no sense to divest yourself of such a strong asset.”

“WVSOM graduates more physicians annually than both West Virginia University and Marshall University and more than half of the primary care physicians practicing in West Virginia are graduates of the Osteopathic School,” the governor said. “Privatization of this outstanding educational facility will also drive up in-state tuition, dramatically, for our state’s brightest young women and men and that would be counterproductive.”

Justice pointed out WVSOM has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best medical schools in the country for 18 consecutive years and is ranked No. 1 in the nation among all medical schools graduating physicians who practice in rural areas by Academic Medicine.

“At a time when West Virginians need access to quality health care, especially in our most rural areas, we simply can’t afford to even entertain the thought of giving up WVSOM,” Justice said.

Blair has said converting WVSOM to a nonprofit school would give academic leaders an opportunity to do what works best for it and would free school administrators from being “under the thumb” of state government.

Miller, though, said neither he nor other local leaders were consulted about the proposal.

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