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Groundbreaking: ULM, VCOM prepare for anticipated medical school

Published Sept. 20, 2018

The magnitude of the ceremony and groundbreaking for the anticipated Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) at the University of Louisiana Monroe was evident to the hundreds who gathered in Heritage Park on Tuesday, September 18, 2018. 
This was something big. Scorching temperatures and stifling humidity were not enough to keep a very interested and diverse crowd from attending.


VCOM is a nonprofit, private (501)c-3  four-year osteopathic medical school offering the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. The Virginia campus is in Blacksburg, Va., the Carolinas campus is in Spartanburg, S.C., and the Alabama campus is in Auburn, Ala.
The groundbreaking is the last phase in a three-step process the state of Louisiana required to legitimize the partnership between ULM and VCOM. First the Board of Regents approved VCOM to operate a medical school in Louisiana; second, the Board of Supervisors approved a land lease between ULM and VCOM and third, a dean for the anticipated medical school was to be hired. The new dean is Ray Morrison, DO.
Heritage Park is on Bayou DeSiard between the Laird Weems Center and the ULM Ski Team house. The large plot is dotted with pecan and oak trees, which provide much-needed shade and add a calmness to the atmosphere.
Guests speakers  included Gov. John Bel Edwards; VCOM President and Provost Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, DO, FACOFP; University of Louisiana System President Dr. Jim Henderson; VCOM Board Chairman John G. Rocovich Jr., JD; ULM President Nick J. Bruno Ph.D.; Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo; State Representative Francis Thompson; American Osteopathic Association President Mark Baker, DO; VCOM Dean Ray Morrison, DO and State Representative Katrina Jackson.
In each one’s brief remarks, one fact was apparent: VCOM is going to change ULM — and change north Louisiana — and change the entire state.
“It’s exciting today to be governor to welcome VCOM,” Edwards said. “This will do more than raise the quality of life (through healthcare), it’s estimated to generate $60-$77 million a year. Higher ed is synonymous with opportunity, think about the opportunity for young people.”
Before introducing Bruno, the governor praised his foresight, saying, “The future is bright because of visionaries like the president of ULM.”
Bruno thanked the legislative delegation, elected officials, organizers of the event, community supporters and everyone who believed ULM would be home to a medical school.
He described how Tooke-Rawlins and Rocovich made a surprise visit to ULM and, “They asked me what I wanted and I said more doctors, better healthcare for our region and the state,” Bruno said. “Then I showed them the site.”
Tooke-Rawlins commented, “I think this is meant to be.”
VCOM is now in the process of seeking national accreditation from the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), and if all of the steps go as planned, the anticipated campus could open to its first class as early as the fall of 2020.