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New Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Students Begin Classes

Nation’s largest medical school class includes 536 students at three campuses.

The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), the nation’s largest medical college, welcomed 536 new first-year Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) students.

LECOM’s DO Class of 2018 includes 250 students at LECOM’s campus in Erie, 182 at the College’s Bradenton, Fla., campus, and 104 at LECOM at Seton Hill in Greensburg, Pa. The new students were chosen from among more than 13,500 applicants.

Shawn Philip and Alan Zats posing for picture

Shawn Philip (left) and Alan Zats are among the 250 members of the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) Class of 2018 at LECOM’s campus in Erie.

The first-year students participated in registration and team building exercises before the formal start of classes. The Erie students are LECOM’s first medical students to use ebooks in their coursework. The ebooks were chosen for both ease of portability and because students can purchase them at a considerable cost savings relative to traditional textbooks, said Jonathan Kalmey, Ph.D., Assistant Dean of Preclinical Education and Professor of Anatomy.

The Class of 2018 includes students of varying backgrounds, to include traditional pre-medicine students who recently completed their undergraduate studies as well as non-traditional students who worked in other professions before deciding to attend medical school.

One incoming student, Colby Salerno, has overcome considerable odds. At age 12, he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a primary disease of the myocardium (muscle of the heart) in which a portion of the myocardium thickens. After waiting six months for a heart transplant, Salerno, a native of Chesire, Ct., had successful surgery in 2012.

Salerno, who remembers being devastated at being forced to give up soccer and to learn he needed a transplant, is excited – at long last – to be able to pursue his dream. “I made up my mind I was going to be a doctor and help others with similar situations,” said Salerno, who hopes to specialize in cardiology. “Receiving the gift of life gave me the chance to learn all about being a patient and the opportunity to live and learn alongside medical professionals. It also gave me the energy I needed to succeed.”

Another member of LECOM’s DO Class of 2018, Justin Espland, previously served as an Army Physician Assistant in Iraq. He recalls one night, in June of 2011, when his Battalion Aid Station was frantically treating soldiers who had been wounded by insurgents’ mortar fire. His experience treating the “walking wounded,” as Espland referred to them, served as motivation to apply to medical school. “This initially quiet night in Iraq was one of the pinnacle moments that helped me realize that practicing medicine and caring for patients at the highest levels was my life’s calling,” said Espland, 33, a native of Lake Norden, S.D.

One member of the DO Class of 2018 at LECOM at Seton Hill, Matthew Mathos, will be following in the footsteps of his mother and father, who are osteopathic physicians. He also will be joining his sister, Lauren Mathos, a third-year DO student at LECOM-Seton Hill.

“I’m very excited to start classes and a bit anxious too, although watching Lauren has helped me know what to expect,” said Mathos, who graduated from Seton Hill University with a bachelor’s degree in biology. “I know the end result will be worth the time and sacrifice required along the way.”

One of the new LECOM-Bradenton students, Jeffrey Hall, spent 12 years as a prison guard for the Lake County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office. Working in the prison’s mental health system and shadowing its lead physician piqued his interest in medicine.

“I’ve worked with a lot of doctors and nurses,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here today without the encouragement of my family and the staff at the jail.”

LECOM’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Class of 2018 includes a number of students whose hometowns are just miles from its campuses. They include 10 students from Erie, 37 from the greater Pittsburgh area, and 29 from the greater Bradenton area. Overall, 108 members of the class are from Pennsylvania and 115 are from Florida.

Consistent with LECOM’s growth as a national institution, the Class of 2018 also includes a number of students from New England and the Midwest as well as Texas, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.

The 182 members of the DO Class of 2018 at LEDiana Sitar, Shelby Mast, Melissa Beljan, Kali Walker, and Ashley Ashlquist posing for picture at LECOM Bradenton

The 182 members of the DO Class of 2018 at LECOM-Bradenton include Diana Sitar, Shelby Mast, Melissa Beljan, Kali Walker, and Ashley Ashlquist.

The Class of 2018 also includes 40 students, like Mathos, who applied and were accepted to LECOM and one of its Early Acceptance Program (EAP) affiliate schools. The incoming students have attended Seton Hill University, Gannon University, Mercyhurst University, Penn State Behrend, Edinboro University, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure, Saint Francis University, Clarion, Slippery Rock University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Thiel College, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, among others.

LECOM’s total medical school enrollment of more than 2,200 students at its three campuses has helped LECOM retain its distinction as the country’s largest medical school. Including graduate studies and the College’s Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) and Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) programs, LECOM now enrolls more than 3,700 students.