AUBURN -- Officials and supporters of a new medical college at the Auburn Research Park at Auburn University broke ground on the project Thursday.
The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) facility will be a state-of-the-art, four story building with more than 90,000 square feet adjacent to Auburn University’s main campus. Osteopathic physicians are licensed across the U.S. to practice the full scope of medicine, according to VCOM. They emphasize the body’s ability to heal itself, and therefore focus on disease prevention and nutrition.
VCOM has campuses in Blacksburg, Va. with Virginia Tech and in Spartanburg, S.C. with Wofford College. The Auburn campus will be its third.
The ground-breaking ceremony Thursday was attended by local and state leaders.
“When you look at what the college of osteopathic medicine is going to bring to us, it’ll be an opportunity for students, faculty and the public and private sector in all walks to work collaboratively at Auburn University,” said Dr. John Mason, president of Auburn Research and Technology Foundation.
Mason said health science is one of Auburn’s many interdisciplinary initiatives, so the entire campus can interact with and benefit from the new college.
Dr. Jay Gogue, president of Auburn University, believes adding another medical college in Alabama will help bring much-needed doctors to the state.
“I’m not an expert at all in health science or in the medical field, but I want you to think about in Alabama every day, the number that shocks me, 61 of the 67 counties are without the appropriate number of doctors,” Gogue said. “… VCOM offers an enormous opportunity in the state of Alabama to help our people. As a land-grant university, it’s absolutely critical that we have a responsibility to the people in our state and beyond.
“This is a dream of ours that we at Auburn could not do. It’s only through a private partner that allows us to provide the kind of interaction and service that we know is important.”
The Auburn Research and Technology Foundation, Auburn University and VCOM first signed the collaborative agreement to establish the college in 2012. VCOM is building the facility, which will allow for collaborations with Auburn University programs and Alabama hospitals. The college is scheduled to admit its first class in 2015.
Dr. James Wolfe, president of Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, also spoke Thursday about the possibilities the partnership will create.
“I want to emphasize two major things,” Wolfe said. “First, how grateful we are for this association with Auburn and the opportunities it provides for both partners, and secondly, how this branch campus will assist in our mission by meeting the growing need for physicians in Alabama and the surrounding rural and underserved areas.”
Wolfe said he looks forward to the economic benefits and healthcare improvements the college can provide the state.
“We will be preparing doctors who will play a major role in satisfying what I personally think to be a moral imperative of this country,” Wolfe said. “In my mind, that moral imperative is the provision of healthcare for all of our citizens, no exceptions, no excuses.”
VCOM will become Alabama’s second osteopathic medical college. The Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine opened in Dothan in August of 2013.