By CAITY COYNE

HD Media

Starting next summer, the Charleston Area Medical Center will have more students from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine training in its facilities, according to a news release Wednesday announcing a new collaboration between the two entities.

A letter of intent, which was signed earlier this week, will establish a new regional campus for WVSOM students, expanding its existing relationship with CAMC, said WVSOM President James Nemitz.

"It's going to be a great benefit for both our students and the Charleston community. Our students are going to get high quality training," Nemitz said. "Our model has been to divide the state, the whole state, up into a Statewide Campus and expose students to various hospitals in West Virginia, and CAMC is certainly one of our leading hospitals."

WVSOM students currently take clinical education rotations at CAMC, and through the new regional campus, they will also be able to partake in residencies specializing in anything from pediatrics to surgery, Nemitz said.

Educational rotations give medical students the chance to spend short amounts of time - sometimes weeks or months - shadowing doctors practicing in specific areas, while residencies are longer, sometimes several years depending on the type of specializations students choose, said Dale Witte, spokesman for CAMC.

The expanded offerings for WVSOM students will include classroom trainings, as well as the opportunity for them to participate in research initiatives and use CAMC's simulation lab.

"From our perspective, it's part of, you know, 'growing your own,'" Witte said. "The more students we have doing training and residencies at CAMC, they're more likely to stay in the area and the state after. We're working on training the future of our physicians."

Details for the collaboration are still being nailed down, Nemitz said. There will not be any new facilities or buildings constructed for the regional campus, and instead, CAMC will find space for WVSOM students and faculty to work out of, according to Witte.

There will be some costs associated with the partnership, however a final price is not yet clear. Witte said WVSOM will have to hire teaching faculty to run the programs for the campus, as well as doctors willing to let students shadow them during their residencies.

The faculty from WVSOM appointed to work onsite in Charleston will be able to utilize CAMC's future faculty development programs, as well, per the news release.

While students and faculty from WVSOM are working in Charleston, Nemitz hopes they'll be able to connect with the community at large, as well as its patients.

"You can't discount the impact medical students have on medical patients," Nemitz said. "While they're students, they still contribute to the team and provide medical care at that high level. They still witness and build personal relationships with the people around them, and hopefully that inspires a want to stay there, or at least around the state, and give more."

Witte said the collaboration will be a tool in fighting "brain drain" in West Virginia - the practice of well-trained, intelligent and productive young people leaving the state for other opportunities elsewhere.

"You invest time in teaching them, you watch them grow, and it's great to be able to keep someone you've taught here locally, especially when we're talking about caregivers," Witte said.

"We need to train people to take care of us, here, when we get older. It's a benefit to the community to keep as many of these bright physicians here as we can."

For Nemitz, the new campus - which should be training WVSOM students by next July - aligns with his school's overall mission.

"When you look at our mission, it's first and foremost taking care of West Virginia. CAMC is an integral part of accomplishing that," Nemitz said. "We've also always been focused on rural primary care. We're very proud of that fact, and this will, hopefully, allow us to continue providing and teaching more of those physicians."

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