LECOM at Seton Hill welcomes inaugural class
More than 100 students begin path to doctor of osteopathic medicine degree

Students and family members tour LECOM at Seton Hill during start of orientation.

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LECOM at Seton Hill orientation weekend.

The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine is taking a leadership role in meeting the challenges of 21st century medical education as the College opens LECOM at Seton Hill, the school’s newest location at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa. More than 100 students will begin their journey toward a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree.

LECOM President and CEO John M. Ferretti, D.O., welcomed the new students and honored guests on July 27 in the Harlan

Dr. John Ferretti opens LECOM at Seton Hill.

Gallery, Reeves Hall, on the campus of Seton Hill. Members of the LECOM and the Seton Hill Boards of Trustees participated in the opening of this extension of LECOM Erie.

“Our goal has been to provide an opportunity for medical students to train in southwestern Pennsylvania, where there is a high need for future health care providers,” Dr. Ferretti said. “LECOM’s experience in Erie and Bradenton shows us that a significant number of graduates practice in the same region where they attended school.” Nearly one out of three LECOM Erie graduates remain in Pennsylvania, and with more than 35 percent of the incoming class from Pennsylvania, the College anticipates similar results from LECOM at Seton Hill.

Dr. Ferretti noted that a high quality of medical education and an affordable cost attracts these students to the college. “Recently, a report to the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation challenged medical colleges to reduce the expense of becoming physicians, shorten the time that it takes to earn a degree, and train physicians who can help solve the problems of today’s health care,” he said. “LECOM has met that call to action with a reasonable tuition, a three-year pathway in Erie, and with a Problem-Based Learning curriculum here at Seton Hill and our other campuses.”

Major Alexander Kirkpatrick is one of the students entering into his first year of medical school at Seton Hill. Originally from Allison

Alexander Kirkpatrick, LECOM at Seton Hill Class of 2013, leads the Pledge of Allegiance.

Park, Pa., the father of three has served in several capacities for the U.S. armed forces, including involvement with homeland security.

Despite the lengthy resume of military service, Major Kirkpatrick always felt a calling to become a physician. “Being a physician was something I always wanted to do, but what really pushed me into applying for medical school was the time I spent in the hospital when my youngest son was born,” he said. “He had lung issues and spent 11 days in the Neonatal ICU. Being in there and watching everything happen, that really just led me to move forward and pursue medicine as a career.”

Major Kirkpatrick’s wife, Catina, and sons Drew, Ian and Cade, are now getting acclimated to life in southwestern Pennsylvania. In addition to the benefit of a location closer to his native home, Kirkpatrick felt LECOM provided the best fit for him. “While geographic location is important to me and my family, LECOM always seemed like the place I would like the best,” he said. “LECOM is well represented across the various specialties in residency, including primary care and other areas. I’m ready for the challenge.”

His most recent military service included defense support of civil authorities, and involved helping civilians recover from hurricane damage in Galveston, Texas, and support of wilderness firefighting in the western U.S.

Geography also played a unique role for another incoming first-year medical student at LECOM at Seton Hill. Alexis Nikoula, a Greensburg native and graduate of Seton Hill University, will be following in the footsteps of her father, Jawdat Nikoula, M.D., (who also is the Student Health Director for LECOM at Seton Hill) ,and begin on a path to becoming a physician. And she notes the importance of LECOM opening up a new location in her region. “There are a lot of families in Greensburg and the surrounding areas that depend on their doctors and have a high respect for them,” she said. “LECOM goes the extra step of imparting values and professionalism on the students in addition to the necessary medical knowledge. That kind of training will go a long way in this region.”

Dr. John Ferretti and Dr. Carol Fox of Excela Health welcome Alexis Nikoula, LECOM at Seton Hill Class of 2013.

Nikoula said she’s ready to accept the challenges of medical school, with the ultimate goal now very clearly in her sights. “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “It will be nice to go through school and learn what I need to know so that I can move on and do what I’ve always wanted to do with my life. I’m nervous, but also very excited.”

The Class of 2013 will begin their coursework on the Seton Hill campus in buildings renovated to suit the students’ unique learning needs. Changes have been made to both Lynch Hall and Reeves Hall to include additional administrative and instructional space, a laboratory for the students to practice osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), and a Learning Resource Center for study materials.

Students at LECOM at Seton Hill will use the highly successful Problem-Based Learning (PBL) curriculum developed at LECOM Erie and used as the sole curriculum in Bradenton and Greensburg. PBL is an internationally recognized, innovative approach to medical education which emphasizes student-centered, self-directed learning through small group interaction and limited faculty involvement. Irving Freeman, Ph.D., J.D., LECOM at Seton Hill vice president of institutional advancement, notes that LECOM “has become a leader in innovative, student-centered learning. In a very short time, we have demonstrated the success of our learning pathways through our graduates’ results on osteopathic licensing exams and in their acceptance to residency programs throughout the country.”

Sisters Ritu and Shivani Gupta meet with Associate Dean Christine Kell, PhD. Ritu is a LECOM Erie OMS3 and Shivani joins the LECOM at Seton Hill Class of 2013.

To facilitate the continued success of the PBL pathway, two experienced PBL faculty members from LECOM Erie will serve as director of the new location. Mark Andrews, Ph.D., an original PBL faculty member at LECOM Erie and former director of the Independent Study Pathway, will be the Director of Examinations at Seton Hill. Donald Linville, Ph.D., served as assistant director of the PBL program in Erie and will take the role of Director of Problem-Based Learning in Greensburg.

Other faculty members include Jeffrey Kushner, Ph.D., associate professor; Sandie Seeger, D.O., assistant professor; and Stephen Sharkady, Ph.D., assistant professor. Virginia Syperda, D.O., M.B.A., Ed.D., is an experienced PBL facilitator, having served as a faculty member at LECOM Bradenton, and will direct the History and Physical Examination course and serve as professor of primary care medicine and as clinical professor of internal medicine/radiology. Michael Warner, D.O., associate professor of osteopathic principles and practice and clinical associate professor of family practice will coordinate the OMM courses. Dr. Warner has been a clinical faculty member of LECOM since 1996 and practices medicine in Ebensburg, Pa., with his wife, Margaret Warner, D.O.

Students also will benefit from close relationships with Excela Health, Somerset Hospital, and Conemaugh Health System in Johnstown, Pa., all of which will provide valuable clinical training for students during their third and fourth years. Through the Lake Erie Consortium for Osteopathic Medical Training (LECOMT), students will have access to more than 30 hospitals for clinical training and post-graduate training.

Lynch Hall on the campus of Seton Hill University is one of two buildings where the LECOM at Seton Hill class of 2013 will learn about osteopathic medicine.

July 27, 2009
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