Show features WVSOM effort on tackling ‘Rural Health Care
Shortage in West Virginia’
WV Press Release Sharing
LEWISBURG, W.Va. – The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM), the
state’s largest medical school, was featured in a segment of PBS NewsHour that aired
April 26 and is available for viewing at the PBS website.
The segment, titled “Next Generation of Doctors Prepares to Tackle Rural Health Care
Shortage in West Virginia,” was part of the internationally broadcast program’s “Rural
Rx” series, which explores the forces shaping rural health care in America. Reporters
traveled to West Virginia, Alabama, Colorado, New York and Texas to understand how
health care is implemented outside major U.S. cities.
The full PBS NewsHour piece can be viewed here: www.pbs.org/newshour/show/young-doctors-prepare-to-tackle-rural-healthcare-shortage-in-west-virginia
The segment pointed out that nearly two-thirds of communities with shortages of
primary care physicians are in rural areas. As a school whose mission includes an
emphasis on producing students prepared to practice in rural areas, WVSOM was
selected as a focus of the segment devoted to West Virginia. Filming took place in
March and included interviews with current students, administrators and a WVSOM
Class of 2020 alumnus.
Abundance Hunt of a Lewisburg, W.Va., is a student in WVSOM’s Class of 2024 and a member of the school’s Rural Health Initiative, a program designed to enhance WVSOM’s rural and underserved primary care curriculum. Students in the program participate in experiences that provide opportunities to learn about local industries and the daily lives of West Virginians.
Earlier this year, Hunt received a Foundation Scholar award, a financial incentive given to students who plan to stay in West Virginia to practice after residency. She said in the
segment that rural physicians often form bonds with their patients that extend beyond
“There’s so much more to medicine than just going to the doctor, and that’s a lot to do
with the trust and the relationship that they have, especially with rural physicians,” Hunt
said. “They are a big part of the community. They are who people trust.”
Another WVSOM Class of 2024 student participating in the Rural Health initiative is Travis Steerman, of Philippi, W.Va. Steerman, who in 2022 was honored for his participation in the Community Outreach and Relief Effort (C.O.R.E.) program for service to underserved communities, worked for 13 years as a
coal miner and now hopes to become a psychiatrist.
He said in the segment that the health challenges the Mountain State is facing can be addressed from within.
“There’s a mental health crisis in West Virginia, a drug crisis in West Virginia, an addiction crisis in general in West Virginia,” Steerman said. “[It’s important to] do your part, stay here, help the communities that raised you, give back to them and help them.”
Linda Boyd, D.O., WVSOM’s vice president for academic affairs and dean, explained how the Rural Health Initiative helps the school train physicians who are uniquely qualified to serve small communities.
“[The program] recruits students who are from a rural area and/or have a strong commitment to practice in a rural area, because some students come in and say, ‘That’s
what I want to do. I want to be a country doc,’” Boyd said. “They are assigned to some
of the smaller hospitals around the state that are considered a rural area and that can
provide rural opportunities for them in training. They’re working alongside doctors
who’ve committed to this life.”
Drema Hill, Ph.D., MSP, oversees WVSOM’s Center for Rural and Community Health as
part of her role as the school’s vice president for community engagement and
development. She spoke about the strategy the center uses to bring members of the
WVSOM community together with residents of Lewisburg and surrounding areas in an
effort to improve community health.
“We bring the community in and we ask them, ‘What’s the need?’ And we listen to
them,” Hill said. “Then we develop programming around that, instead of it being the
other way around.”
James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., WVSOM’s president, said he believes many of the health
challenges the Mountain State is facing can be addressed from within.
“Part of what I have seen as successful here in West Virginia is growing your own, having
people come from the area, they go to medical school in the state, they end up going to
their residency in the state, and they end up staying, because their families are here and
they love the people and the land,” he said.
Adam Polinik, D.O., a 2020 WVSOM graduate, also was highlighted in the segment.
WVSOM is a national leader in educating osteopathic physicians for primary care
medicine in rural areas. Visit WVSOM online at www.wvsom.edu.