MOULTRIE – Most people cannot claim the title as doctor, let alone say they’ve completed medical school during a global pandemic. On Thursday, 53 osteopathic medicine students and seven master of science degree program in biomedical sciences students walked across the stage to graduate from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine’s South Georgia campus.
Although this is the first class of physicians to graduate from PCOM South Georgia, it’s actually the campus’ second commencement. A class of master of science students graduated last year.
Thursday’s ceremony was held at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center. Provost and Senior Vice President Kenneth J. Veit, DO, MBA opened the ceremony with a welcome. He was shortly followed with video message from Gov. Brian P. Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp.
The keynote speaker for the 2023 commencement was James L. Matney, the chief executive officer and president of Colquitt Regional Medical Center. PCOM President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Jay S. Feldstein and Board of Trustees Member John P. Kearney presented Matney an honorary doctoral degree for his contribution and dedication to assisting in PCOM South Georgia campus’s fruition as well as improving healthcare quality in Colquitt County and throughout the region.
Matney approached the podium and began his speech with one message: continue being the first. He encouraged the new doctors and master graduates to continue thriving within their fields and awaiting residencies.
“As you walk across the stage, it’s important for you to remember that with this incredible accomplishment there comes an immense responsibility with being the first. Each one of you will be the first resident from PCOM South Georgia to matriculate into your residency program. Soon you’ll be spreading all over the country. While PCOM is well known, many of your co-residents, faculty and program directors will have never known of PCOM South Georgia. You will be their first impression of the quality of education,” he told the commencement candidates.
Matney challenged the doctors in their cohort to be the first to strive to publish medical study, introduce a new patient care model, or to enter into a subspecialty.
Allison Tresner, a Michigan native and long-time South Florida resident, earned a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree. She is the first doctor in her family, and she will attend the Georgia South Residency Program at Colquitt Regional Medical Center where she will work toward becoming a family medicine physician.
She began her medical studies at PCOM South Georgia in 2019 and instantly felt at home due to the small class sizes and outpouring support from the local community.
“It’s a family here, and this is a really unique place. When you step onto this campus you know right away from the different signs and locations, the people that helped to make this place happen,” Tresner said while reflecting on her experience at PCOM South Georgia.
To those who might want to pursue a medical career Tresner said, “If you set your mind to it, you will find a way to make it happen. Some people don’t always have the right support system or the financial means, but I encourage them to look for resources and look for people.”
Trent Griner, a Thomasville native as well as a Brookwood School and Berry College graduate, was excited to attend PCOM South Georgia. His primary goal is to pursue a career in primary sports care medicine after completing his family medicine residency program at Floyd Medical Center.
“It was nice to be a part of this first class having been from here and knowing all the people who helped put this together,” he said. “This campus and this school is so valuable to this community. This is a really great partnership.”
Griner and his fellow classmates worked alongside local physicians Drs. Kevin Collin and Gary Swartzentruber to help with sideline sports medical coverage for the Colquitt County High School Packers football team.
“It was cool to take care of these kids. I know a lot of them and their parents so it’s pretty cool to take care of them and know that I was able to watch them develop and help with their care. The doctors here are fantastic. I’m not sure if everyone realizes the caliber of the people that’s on the sidelines here. It is a robust medical staff,” he said.
One of his favorite factors of the south Georgia campus is the welcoming community.
“The community has been great to all of us. We have people from all over the world in the class, and they welcomed us all as if we grew up here,” he said.
Griner also named the small class sizes as a contributor to his success. He said the PCOM South Georgia allowed him a great hands-on and one-on-one opportunities with program directors and attending physicians. He shared his gratitude to the patients who’ve let him and his classmates assist them with their healthcare.
The attendees witnessed just how important the graduating candidates were to each other and how much the school’s faculty cared for the students as they each received their degrees. The graduates cheered each other on as they walked across the stage.