Medical school dedicated

Sep. 19, 2013 @ 09:04 PM

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and others spoke Thursday about the importance of the newly christened Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine to rural communities that lack doctors — a gap the school aims to fill.

The first new medical school in North Carolina in more than 30 years, Campbell’s facilities received widespread praise from the many speakers who touched on its Christian underpinnings, mission to serve rural areas and focus on graduating much-needed primary care doctors.

North Carolina’s biggest challenge right now is “to rebuild rural North Carolina and rural towns,” McCrory said. “It has to be. ... Unless we convince doctors to make their homes in rural North Carolina, we’re not going to succeed.”

The school, which is also North Carolina’s first school of osteopathic medicine, started classes last month but hadn’t dedicated the building, the Leon Levine Hall of Medical Sciences, until Thursday’s ceremony.

Levine, who founded Family Dollar in 1959 in Charlotte, has given millions to various schools and causes around the state, including a gift to Campbell’s newest project. He was on hand Thursday and said he’s confident those who graduate from the school will do a lot to improve the quality of life in central North Carolina.

Similar statements abounded at the invite-only dedication ceremony. About 700 people gathered for the event in a large tent outside the school, which sits on Highway 27 between Lillington and Campbell’s main campus and trains pharmacists and physician assistants in addition to doctors.

“Today is truly a historic day for Campbell University, Harnett County and North Carolina,” John Kauffman, dean of the medical school, told the crowd. “When it comes to health care, we are living in unsure times.”

Noting that at least 20 counties in North Carolina don’t have a single surgeon or OBGYN, and that North Carolina is in the bottom half of states in both total doctors and primary care doctors per capita — not to mention massive shortages of doctors anticipated in the next decade — he said the situation will likely only get worse without schools like Campbell working to increase the number of new medical professionals.

McCrory stuck with a similar theme later, addressing the students specifically — morning classes were canceled so they could attend — and telling them that several major issues facing the state and the country in the near future are related to medicine: rising insurance costs, uncertainly surrounding federal health care programs and an increased focus on identifying and treating mental illness.

Wrapping up the ceremony, Campbell University President Jerry Wallace said that while he’s excited for the aid the school’s graduates will hopefully bring to the rural, medically under-served pockets of the state, he’s under no illusion that the school will be able to achieve success entirely on its own. It will require help from local people, groups and governments, Wallace said, and it will also require continued faith.

“This is the Lord’s doing,” he said, quoting Psalms 118 and later adding: “I believe God will continue to guide us.”

One of the new medical students, Melissa Davies, said she was drawn to the school because of its Christian heritage. A Fayetteville native, Davies received an undergraduate degree from Campbell in 2010 and since has gone on international mission trips, gotten married and had a child. The baby came about six weeks before the start of school, but Davies said she was more than willing to juggle labs, tests and motherhood in order to be a member of the school’s inaugural class.

“My husband was reading about it and was like, ‘This lines up exactly with what you want to do with medicine, religion, everything,’” Davies, 25, said after the ceremony.

She added that she wants to keep up her mission work but will probably move to a small community nearby to become a primary care physician — fulfilling school leaders’ stated goal for most graduates.