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Osteopathic medical school in Blacksburg, Va., ‘perfect fit’ for EMU grads

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Since elementary school she had wanted to be a doctor, but Margaret “Maggie” Parker didn’t know that that dream would merge with a later dream – marrying a good man – during her academic journey through Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) and on to the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM), linked to Virginia Tech University.

Maggie had wrapped up her first two years at EMU before meeting a native of Harrisonburg, Va., Nathaniel “Nate” Yoder, who had returned to his hometown after completing two years at a sister Mennonite school, Hesston (Kan.) College.

Maggie and Nate were both pre-professional health sciences majors in the class of 2008, and they quickly discovered a shared interest in answering God’s call through practicing medicine.

Now in their final year at VCOM, Maggie Yoder is pursuing a residency in family medicine, while Nate Yoder will be doing a residency in emergency medicine. They will each earn the degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.).

“The VCOM relationship is a perfect next step for someone who’s come through EMU,” says Maggie, adding that EMU and VCOM are both based on service to others and intercultural awareness.

The non-profit VCOM was established with foundation and private donations in the fall of 2003 “to prepare globally-minded, community-focused physicians to meet the needs of rural and medically underserved populations and promote research to improve human health,” according to the school’s website. Initial focus on underserved areas in Appalachia has stretched to Latin America.

“The school’s block schedule is set up to encourage hands-on service in clinical settings in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic,” says Maggie. Up to 25 VCOM students travel to rural areas in these countries four times per year for several-week stints. They staff clinics that VCOM has established with local community partners, providing services to people who otherwise would not have access to basic care.

“While most medical students spend the first two years of med-school in the classroom, we had the chance to do hands-on clinical assessment and intervention,” says Maggie. Maggie and Nate have each completed a 10-day stint in Honduras, with Nate also spending time in Guatemala.

After graduating from EMU in 2008, the Yoders took time off to work in research roles – he in a biotech lab and she at the National Institutes of Health – before beginning medical school in 2010.  Anca Chirvasuta, a 2012 graduate of EMU, has followed the Yoders to VCOM.

The founder and chairman of the board of directors at VCOM, John Rocovich, J.D., LL.M., was key in building the relationship between EMU and VCOM, anchored by a 2008 agreement for automatic admission for qualified EMU grads. The arrangement guarantees acceptance of up to 10 EMU students into the VCOM program, assuming these students follow a distinct academic protocol and demonstrate high achievement in EMU’s pre-med program. (The Yoders’ acceptances predated this agreement.)

Rocovich serves on EMU’s Commission for the Sciences, which undergirds EMU’s campaign to renovate Suter Science Center. Renovations are expected to begin in early 2014.

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