Ninety-two newly minted doctors of osteopathic medicine have reserved their place in history as members of the inaugural graduating class of A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA).

On Friday, June 3, the inaugural ATSU-SOMA class of 2011 walked across the stage at the Mesa Arts Center in Mesa, Ariz., to receive their diplomas – not in alphabetical order, but grouped according to the community health center campuses where they lived and studied for the last three years. ATSU-SOMA’s unique curricular model was fully accredited just days earlier by the American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA).

Graduates will enter residencies across the country in July, with 83 percent going into National Association of Community Health Center (NACHC) needed specialties, including primary care. Fifteen ATSU-SOMA graduates will remain in Arizona for residency training.

“Today we share the success of the graduates as well as the success of the school,” said Kenneth Jones, D.O., FAOCR, ’83, vice chair of the ATSU Board of Trustees. “I personally am excited to be here with you today, because I was one of the 21 members of the board who approved the proposed new osteopathic medical school in 2005.”

In his address to the graduating class, SOMA Interim Dean Thomas McWilliams, D.O., FACOFP, ’76, noted that from day one, most of the inaugural class expressed a desire to help people as a main motivation for going into a career in medicine. “Your level of volunteerism and altruism [has been] remarkable,” said Dr. McWilliams. “We’ve done all that we can in our curriculum to promote and maintain this heart to serve the needy. I think that this is the true heart of SOMA.

“My parting request to you is that you keep this spirit alive during your residency and on into practice. Your healing touch is exactly what the nation needs at this place in time.”

The keynote speaker was Douglas Wood, D.O., Ph.D., ATSU’s senior vice president – academic affairs, and founding dean of SOMA. “You took a chance on this innovative, unproven medical school and look where we are today,” he said. “You are going to be wonderful osteopathic physicians. And I can tell you that I will forever owe you a debt of gratitude.”

Following the keynote address, ATSU President Jack Magruder, Ed.D., presented Dr. Wood a presidential proclamation of thanks and appreciation for his contributions to ATSU-SOMA, the profession of osteopathic medicine, and osteopathic medical education.

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