The inaugural class of PCOM South Georgia students earning Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degrees received their diplomas and hoods during a commencement ceremony held Thursday, May 25, at the UGA Conference Center in Tifton. Joining them was PCOM South Georgia’s second class to earn the master of science degree in biomedical sciences.
Even though PCOM South Georgia only opened in 2019 in Moultrie, Georgia, the campus is part of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine’s long-standing educational legacy.
“Class of 2023, today you are graduating from an extraordinary institution, one with a nearly 125-year history of academic excellence,” said Kenneth J. Veit, DO ’76, provost and senior vice president, in his opening remarks. “Members of PCOM South Georgia’s inaugural DO class and biomedical sciences graduates, you are soon to become alumni, joining over 19,000 PCOM alumni spread throughout the nation and world.”
After a special video message from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Georgia First Lady Marty Kemp, Jay Feldstein, DO ’81, president and CEO, addressed the crowd.
“Today is a dream come true for so many,” he said. “Beginning in 2016, Dr. H. William Craver III, recently retired but then vice provost, dean and chief academic officer of PCOM Georgia, with other college officials, recognized that there was a need to grow graduate medical education beyond our branch campus in North Georgia and to invest in the next generation of osteopathic physicians and healthcare professionals.”
Feldstein thanked legislators, local and regional businesses, healthcare and education stakeholders, and community members in South Georgia for their continued support. In addition, he expressed appreciation to Jim Matney, president and chief executive officer of Colquitt Regional Medical Center, who served as the commencement speaker.
Feldstein continued, “PCOM South Georgia was created to be a place that would inspire, motivate and empower the healthcare leaders of tomorrow – leaders who will be dedicated to addressing our nation’s physician shortage, healthcare disparities, and to advancing medicine in underserved rural communities.”
During the ceremony, John P. Kearney, a PCOM Board of Trustees member, presented Matney with an honorary degree, the Doctor of Laws.
Matney then delivered the commencement address, during which he reminisced about how many laughed at his dream of having a medical school in the region.
“I’m sure that Dr. Feldstein would agree that many of those early first conversations were difficult and even felt impossible at times, but looking out across this group of graduates confirms that all of the work that led us to today was certainly worth it,” he said. “As you walk across this stage, it is important for you to remember that with this incredible accomplishment, there comes an immense responsibility with being the first.”
Matney continued, “I implore you to use the trials and challenges that will inevitably come your way to fuel your passion and drive. Take inspiration from the pioneers who have come before you, the individuals who were the first to discover groundbreaking treatments, the first to introduce new technologies, the first to challenge conventional wisdom.”
He shared the story of Andrew Taylor Still, known as the father of osteopathic medicine. A Civil War doctor, Still was inspired by the death of his first wife and three children to develop a new model of medicine. Matney encouraged graduates to use Dr. Still as an inspiration to push boundaries and make a difference in the lives of their patients and communities.
“To the first graduating class of doctors of PCOM South Georgia, I say to you, be the first and be brave. You are here for a purpose,” Matney said. “You are strong, focused and willing to do what it takes. Like the great pioneers that have come before you, you have already left an enduring legacy. Congratulations on your achievement, and may your future endeavors be filled with success, joy and prosperity.”
PCOM South Georgia offers a full, four-year medical program leading to the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree and a Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences degree. PCOM is a private, not-for-profit institution that trains professionals in the health and behavioral sciences fields.
For more information, visit pcom.edu/southgeorgia or call 229-668-3110.