MOULTRIE, Ga. — It was a year of firsts for the PCOM South Georgia Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine class: the first class to attend PCOM South Georgia, the first to finish its term there virtually, the first to successfully complete the first year of medical school in Moultrie, and the first to complete that year during a global pandemic.

Kristie Petree, DO ‘13, osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) site director, said these students have been nothing short of pioneers. 

“Our students did a phenomenal job navigating this year,” Petree said. “In the beginning, the word ‘pioneers’ was thrown around a lot, but I don’t think any of us realized how accurate that description was. They navigated a new school, new building, evolving curriculum, an overnight change to a digital platform, and a global pandemic all in one year. They deserve an extra acknowledgment for all they did. It was a big year in a lot of ways.”

As a professor who works primarily in a lab setting, George Fredrick, MD, primary care skills (PCS) director, understands the challenges that the students faced by finishing their term online. He teaches and critiques each student’s ability to work with high-fidelity mannequins and standardized patients, including taking patient histories and monitoring vital signs — something that is harder to learn through a textbook than in the Simulation Center.

“Weweren’t able to be in a lab and critique their skills, so they had to make the most of what they could do with video,” he said. “This is the path they’ve chosen and they had to stick with it. They realize how tough medical school is and that they had to support one another and have a support system at home. I was impressed with how the students really rolled with the punches.

Despite the hardship of learning through videos and books at home, Fredrick said the students are prepared for their second year. 

“They’re probably a little ahead of the game,” he said. “In their second year they will focus on applying what they learned from the patients such as their history and exam and then making a diagnosis and plan. It’s one step further.” 

But it wasn’t just the students who adapted to this new learning environment. Overcoming a global pandemic in an educational setting was also a first for faculty and staff, including Dean and Chief Academic Officer H. William Craver III, DO, FACOS. He credits the PCOM South Georgia team for making a quick and efficient change to continue delivering content. 

“The faculty saw the need to keep students safe and continue moving them forward on their educational journey,” he said. “It was simply a matter of days, and they had redesigned their lectures. I was extremely impressed with how cognizant the faculty were of using online tools. They delivered an excellent product, and the students’ performance showed that.”

Like the entire campus community, Justina Mason, assistant director of student affairs, takes pride in the inaugural class. She’s worked with the students closely over their first year, from fundraisers to holiday events to the white coat ceremony — she’s made memories right alongside them. 

“PCOM South Georgia is a very special place,” she said. “It takes a strong person to come to a new school in the most important time of their life. Our students are true leaders and will be a great influence on the class of 2024. I’m excited to see the physicians they will be. They’re going to change the face of medicine.”

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