After more than 12 years of preparation to bring an elite medical school to the Wiregrass, the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine officially opened its doors on Monday to 162 students, dozens of employees and millions more dollars of potential for economic development and expansion.
The grand opening marked the second Gov. Robert Bentley has attended in Dothan this summer to bring to fruition multiple visions for Alabama’s economic direction.
Bentley – a physician himself – said he and others invested some of their own money over the years to see a school like ACOM come to pass.
“This is the culmination of a dream we had many, many years ago and it means so much for Alabama in terms of the economy and specially-trained physicians that can go out into the workforce,” Bentley said.
“For every physician that comes to Alabama, that’s between $1 million and $1.5 million coming into the state’s economy.”
Several legislative officials, ACOM workers and those with Southeast Alabama Medical Center attended the event alongside several of the students expected to begin class next week.
Matthew Maberry, an ACOM student who served as a missionary in Brazil and attended a medical school in Nashville before locating to Dothan, said he already sees Dothan as a promising location for his wife, Mary Virginia, and two young daughters.
Carrolton native Calvin Williams said he researched ACOM a while before agreeing to join the inaugural class.
“I feel like God just steered me here,” said Williams, who said he is the only person in the medical field in his family.
“God already wrote the script. I just have to live it.”
ACOM employees have moved from throughout the country – and some from within the state – to work there.
Dr. Elizabeth Hengstebeck, ACOM chair of family medicine, relocated from North Florida, while retired U.S. Navy veteran, ACOM Student Services Secretary Yasmine Hill moved from Birmingham.
“It’s exciting,” she said.
“I had no idea this was going on here in Dothan until I came. It’s overwhelming to know that I’m a part.”