LEWISBURG, West Virginia – Abigail Patterson ’25, of Charleston, West Virginia, was in her sophomore year of high school when she discovered her passion for medicine. Today, Patterson is a student at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, W.Va., and a participant in the “Go D.O.” Early Scholars Program, which allows Wesleyan students to be accepted to medical school at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) before they begin undergraduate studies.
It was during a summer reading assignment for an advanced placement biology course that Patterson — who originally thought she might have a future as a teacher — realized she wanted to become a physician.
“We read a book called ‘The Emperor of All Maladies’ [by Siddhartha Mukherjee]. It’s about the history of cancer treatments, and it was fascinating to see how we’ve evolved our thinking about treatments,” Patterson said. “For example, I learned that not all cancer treatments have an end goal of removing cancer; sometimes the goal is to stop the spread and allow people to live while still having tumors in their body. The idea that you can help people and constantly be thinking and learning was exciting.”
Students who plan to attend Wesleyan as a biology or biochemistry major in hopes of later entering medical school at WVSOM can apply to the Go D.O. program during their senior year of high school. Participants who go on to successfully complete program requirements during their time at Wesleyan don’t have to take the MCAT exam that is typically mandatory for acceptance to medical school.
After learning of the Go D.O. program and researching WVSOM, Patterson decided that osteopathic medicine — which views each patient as a unit of body, mind and spirit — was a good fit for her medical interests.
“I knew I wanted to be a doctor, and having guaranteed acceptance seemed like an ideal opportunity,” Patterson said. “When I looked into WVSOM and learned what a D.O. is, I found I liked the school’s approach and the principles of osteopathic medicine. I like that it focuses on whole-person health and that one part of the body can influence the health of another part. It’s an exciting way to think about medicine.”
As a private/public education partnership, the Go D.O. program, which launched in 2021, was one of the first of its kind in West Virginia. WVSOM and West Virginia Wesleyan share a dedication to science, service and holistic education, said Ronnie Collins, WVSOM’s director of admissions.
“This is a unique program, as we’re taking graduating high school seniors who will be attending Wesleyan, which has a track record of producing successful students at WVSOM, and putting them on an early path to become an osteopathic physician,” Collins said. ”The partnership is a win for all, as it allows students to enter WVSOM without the stress of taking the MCAT and helps WVSOM meet its mission.”
Because Patterson has a special interest in research, she spent several weeks on WVSOM’s campus in Lewisburg this summer, assisting Shinichi Asano, Ph.D., an associate professor in WVSOM’s Department of Biomedical Sciences, with his investigation into how sex hormones might influence the presentation of asthma. Patterson has been performing immunoblotting, a procedure used to detect proteins in tissue samples, as well as conducting data analysis and assembling an abstract that she will present at the WV-INBRE (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence) Summer Research Symposium on July 25 in Huntington, W.Va.
She said her experience at WVSOM has been educational and that her co-workers on the research project have treated her as a professional.
“I was concerned coming in that I might be thought of as an undergrad who doesn’t really know what’s going on, but everyone has held me to a higher standard. They’ve treated me as an equal instead of just some college student who is in the way,” Patterson said.
Asano praised Patterson for her dedication and said she exemplifies why medical school pipeline programs are needed in order to identify young people in West Virginia who have what it takes to someday enter the physician workforce.
“Abigail is an outstanding undergraduate who has learned many laboratory techniques quickly. She has a scientific mind, and she’s very organized and careful,” Asano said. “It’s valuable to have initiatives like the Go D.O. program so that we can find talented West Virginia students like Abigail early on. As medical school faculty, it’s important to show these students what medical school is like and let them know what we can offer them.”
Requirements for acceptance to the Go D.O. program include a high school GPA of 3.75, a minimum composite ACT score of 30 and a minimum composite SAT score of 1,390. More information on the program can be found at www.wvsom.edu/admissions/go-do.