Ohio University President Duane Nellis places the Phillips Medal on President Emeritus Roderick McDavis Saturday during the Heritage College’s 42nd annual Convocation and White Coat Ceremony. Provided photo

During his 13-year tenure as president of Ohio University, one of the annual duties performed by Roderick McDavis was bestowing the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Phillips Medal of Public Service.

McDavis, who stepped down as president in February, was on the receiving end of that honor Saturday, as the medical school recognized him as its 2017 Phillips Medal recipient during the college’s 42nd annual Convocation and White Coat Ceremony, welcoming the incoming class of medical students. 

Saying that receiving the Phillips Medal is among the greatest honors of his career, President Emeritus McDavis urged the incoming class of 252 students from Heritage College campuses in Athens, Cleveland and Dublin to make compassionate patient care their top priority as physicians. “Patients’ economic status should never determine the level of care they receive,” he said. “When they come to see you, they are literally placing their lives in your hands.”

The Phillips Medal recognizes outstanding contributions in health care, education and/or public service. In awarding it to McDavis, the college cited his “unwavering focus on public service and social responsibility,” including “strong support for the Heritage College’s mission to train compassionate, committed primary care physicians ready to practice in Ohio, especially in underserved communities.” 

McDavis’s leadership was instrumental during an unprecedented period of growth for the 40-year-old college, according to an OU-HCOM news release about the convocation. Starting with the Academic & Research Center that opened in 2010, the release said, McDavis supported the college through the transformational gift of $105 million from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation in 2011, the opening of the college’s Dublin and Cleveland campuses in  2014 and 2015, and the creation of new and the expansion of existing education and research programs.

The Phillips Medal citation also noted his work to increase diversity among students and staff and to maintain the affordability of an OU education.

Also during Saturday’s event, each new medical student received a short white coat as an emblem of professionalism, to be worn when they accompany physicians in clinical settings. Second-year medical student Ulyana Kachmar, president of the Student Government Association at the Heritage College, Cleveland, told the incoming class that last year’s Convocation represented a turning point in her life. “From the moment you slip on your white coat, your life will be changed,” she said. “You will have the ability to positively impact the lives of future patients.”

Saturday marked the first Heritage College Convocation for McDavis’s successor as president, Duane Nellis. The new president said that since its first class started in 1976, the medical school has been “a beacon, a true beacon of hope” for Ohio, the nation and the world. “You are the future of our world-class medical school,” he told students. “Through the fulfillment of your individual promise, we will collectively fulfill our promise to improve the human condition.”

Heritage College Executive Dean Kenneth Johnson, D.O., noted that 92 percent of the class of 2021 are from Ohio. “I’m so incredibly proud of that figure, as we work to ensure that citizens in all parts of the state have access to the health care they need,” he said. Approximately 22 percent of the incoming students are minorities and 27 percent are first-generation college students.  

Johnson also noted that the class of 2021 includes the first three participants in the Heritage College’s Early Assurance Programs to matriculate as medical students. Through the EAPs, the college partners with Baldwin-Wallace University, John Carroll University, Ohio Dominican University, Ohio University and Otterbein University to allow selected students from Ohio to earn their baccalaureate degree from their undergraduate institution and their D.O. degree from the Heritage College in as little as seven years. 

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