One of the things that most motivates Vincent Morra MS ’15 (biomedicine) is interpersonal connection. It’s what first attracted him to the field of osteopathic medicine, and what told him that Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) were the right schools for him.
“The culture there, at EMU, was very different from what I was used to,” he said. It’s “a tight knit community. It’s much more supportive than other educational settings I was used to … all the professors have very open door policies.”
He then chose to attend WVSOM in Lewisburg because “the people there were very genuine.”
It should come as no surprise that someone who places such value on relationships and compassion would enter the field of osteopathic medicine.
Doctors of osteopathic medicine are fully licensed physicians, like those with a doctor of medicine, or M.D. degree. But in addition to the usual gamut of medical school courses, osteopathic medicine schools include special training in the musculoskeletal system and “manipulations,” a set of hands-on techniques used to prevent, diagnose, and treat injuries and illnesses. These treatments can help a patient in place of or in addition to traditional medical therapies.
Morra explained that osteopathic medicine also emphasizes looking at a patient “holistically,” including the person’s “body, mind and spirit, and treating the patient as a whole, and not just as whatever their diagnosis might be.”
Morra earned his doctor of osteopathic medicine degree in May, and recently began his residency in family medicine at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, W.Va. The three-year residency will give him plenty of opportunities to serve people from rural areas, reminiscent of his hometown in Bridgewater, Virginia.
“There’s a huge population here that is lacking in medical care,” Morra said.
The first year of his residency will include a “smattering of everything,” from outpatient to inpatient medicine to obstetrics. In his second and third years, he’ll have the chance to study various specialties firsthand, such as cardiology, neurology, or nephrology.
Throughout the residency, though, “you’re always spending time in the clinic with your patients, in order to keep continuity of care with them,” said Morra.
Morra knew a bit about osteopathic medicine as an undergraduate economics student at the University of Virginia. But he found certainty in this calling while earning his master’s degree in biomedicine at EMU, as professors and peers in the program all valued “treating the whole patient.”
“Students take a few classes – interdisciplinary seminar, cross-cultural healthcare, and faith and ethics – that allow them to see health from varied aspects,” said Professor Kristopher Schmidt.
EMU’s biomedicine program has an 80% acceptance rate among students who apply to medical schools.
Because Morra’s undergraduate degree was in economics, he said the biomedicine program gave him an opportunity to dig deeper into the medical field before he applied to medical schools, as well as “the opportunity to become more confident in myself before applying.”
Professor Tara Kishbaugh, interim director of the biomedicine program, said Morra was a “great addition” to the program.
“He is such a quiet, gentle person,” she said. “He consistently was working with his peers to support their learning in organic chemistry – which typically is one of the more frustrating prerequisites for students. He always went above and beyond in the class, carefully figuring out each bonus question, turning in work early, even when there were reasons for his work to be late.”