FLEISCHMANN: First students set standard for the future

Editor’s note: On Nov. 12, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Suwanee held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its school of pharmacy. The first class of pharmaceutical students began studies on Aug. 16 and will graduate in 2014. At the ribbon-cutting ceremonies, the following was delivered by Dr. John Fleischmann, the school’s campus executive officer.

As a health sciences university, we at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine believe that leading by example allows the communities we serve to see our good works and recognize our value. To paraphrase Matthew 5:16, we strive to let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father who is in heaven.

We believe the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine is a blessed university. For other than the care of one’s spiritual health, there can be no higher calling than the care and maintenance of one’s temporal body. PCOM has answered this calling for more than 110 years.

Today’s celebration gives us cause to reflect on our mission of service, and on the journey taken to arrive at this gathering here today.

An outcome of our 2001 institutional self-study concluded that in order for PCOM to continue growth of its service mission, the institution needed to expand. The search for new service opportunities focused on the South. When compared nationally, the southern region of the United States presents significant challenges in virtually all health-related professions. The fact that Georgia ranked 37th in the number of physicians per capita, the fact that out of 159 counties in Georgia, 57 do not have even one practicing physician, and the fact that osteopathic medicine was relatively unknown in the region lit a fire in PCOM’s leadership to serve both the population of Georgia and the osteopathic profession by establishing a southern campus.

Once our first professional program was established, we began the process of evaluating other opportunities to serve our new community.

After review of health care need assessments, a decision was made to focus on a doctor of pharmacy program as the next service opportunity in Georgia. The need for pharmacists in Georgia is exceeded only by the need for nurses, and nationally, 157,000 more pharmacists are needed by 2020.

A debt of gratitude is owed to those who supported the decision to start this new school. We are thankful for our trustees, for our senior leadership ... for our faculty and staff ... and for each and every preceptor who has stepped forward to embrace this new school by assuming key roles in this pioneering effort.

In August, we admitted 79 doctor of pharmacy students — our first. Many of your smiling faces are here today.

As members of this inaugural class you are the cornerstones of our pharmacy program.

As members of this inaugural class, you set the standard by which all future classes will be compared. PCOM’s new school of pharmacy will forever be viewed through the professional examples of caring and competence you exhibit.

As members of this inaugural class, you will forever be remembered as a group that recognizes possibilities and seeks opportunities to serve your fellow man. We believe this is a fitting legacy for all who matriculate at PCOM. For this we are all thankful.

As the pioneer class in our new school of pharmacy, you are the looking glass through which others will view this new program. We ask that you lead by example. We ask that you let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify our Father who is in heaven.

John Fleischmann is the executive officer for the Georgia campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.