The Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduated its inaugural class of 53 students with a doctorate in osteopathic medicine from its campus in South Georgia Thursday afternoon. They represent the first class of future physicians to finish at the school’s campus in Colquitt County, which opened in 2019. 

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The Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine started in 1899 and opened its first campus outside of Pennsylvania in 2005 in Suwanee, Ga. Ahead of the opening of the school’s second Georgia location in Moultrie four years ago, administrators said it was built to help expand the healthcare workforce in an area with physician shortages. 

Out of the state's five medical schools — including Schools of Medicine at Emory University and Morehouse College in Atlanta and Mercer University in Macon, as well as the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University — the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine's Moultrie campus is the only four-year medical school located south of Bibb County.

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There are only 40 accredited colleges of osteopathic medicine in the country, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. Like allopathic doctors with a medical degree, osteopathic physicians are also licensed to practice the full scope of medicine, like performing surgery and prescribing medications. 

Interim dean of the South Georgia location Dr. Robert Lloyd said graduates are heading in a variety of directions. The inaugural class has a 100% placement rate in medical residency programs and graduate medical education programs, he said. 

“Things like anesthesiology, general surgery, orthopedic surgery,” Lloyd said. Along with the primary care specialties of family practice, OBGYN, internal medicine.”

Lloyd said this is a milestone for his students. 

“Recognize that these have been challenging times both for us as a community, and in health care in general,” Lloyd said. “We started a brand new campus. We've been through the pandemic.”

Out of the 13 Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduates staying in Georgia for medical residencies, Lloyd said nearly half placed in rural hospitals, including at Colquitt Regional Medical Center and Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville. 

Griffin Clyatt is graduating with the inaugural class. Originally from Valdosta and coming from an undergraduate program at Mercer, he plans on pursuing orthopedic surgery at a residency program in Florida. 

“After I do residency, I've definitely thought about coming back and being here and practicing here,” Clyatt said.