Leaders in Medical Education

Leaders in Medical Education - Dr. H. William Craver III, Chief Academic Officer at Georgia Campus - Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

Thasin Jaigirdar
Feb 24, 2015

A native of Doylestown, Pa., Dr. Craver graduated from the University of Delaware where he earned a degree in Physical Therapy in 1979. After working in physical therapy and sports medicine at the Hershey Medical Center, he enrolled at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) and earned his DO degree with honors in 1987.

He completed a residency, serving two years as chief resident, in General Surgery at the Osteopathic Medical Center of Philadelphia in 1992. He then joined the teaching faculty and was the Academic Coordinator of the Surgery Residency Program.  He has also practiced in the rural communities of Jasper, Ga. and Hardinsburg, Ky.

Dr. Craver is board certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery and is a Fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons.  He is a Costin Scholar and has earned numerous awards including induction into the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, the Galen S. Young Surgery Award from PCOM, Resident of the Year, National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners Case Author of the Year, PCOM Alumni Association Certificate of Merit and Certificate of Honor. In addition, he is a member of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Mentor Hall of Fame.

Dr. Craver is actively involved in several organizations serving and/or representing osteopathic medicine including the Residency Evaluation and Standards Committee for the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons, Delegate to the AOA, Board of Directors for Three Rivers Area Health Education Center (AHEC), GME Regents Evaluation and Assessment Team, and the Primary Care Work Group for the Georgia Statewide AHEC Network.

What is your background and how did you get interested in medicine (what made you want to switch from Physical Therapy to Medicine)?

My original pathway into caring for others began as an interest in sports health and recovery. It was a natural extension from my personal sports experiences and my upbringing as part of an athletic family.  I felt Physical Therapy was a good avenue to gain the knowledge needed, but also earned a certification in Athletic Training at the same time. I enjoyed a rewarding career in PT and often reflect on how fulfilling it was to work closely with patients to help them regain the ability to walk after a stroke or  even to run again on the sports field

My movement from Physical Therapy to Osteopathic Medicine was not really a switch but further exploration of premises learned. PT recognizes the need for function, difficulties when function is disturbed, and the goal of normalization. Osteopathic Medicine embraces the tenant that structure and function go hand in hand. Becoming an Osteopathic Physician permitted me to embrace the full spectrum of medical care while incorporating my prior education and experience.

Eventually I decided to become a surgeon. Yet again, it was an extension of my desire to make a positive impact in the lives of the patients entrusted to my care. Also embracing my medical training as an Osteopathic Physician has helped me see the “whole” patient, not just the disease, so I am able to respond to their need fully.

How did you become involved in medical education?

My family has always been in education, from elementary school teacher, to college professor, to coach (a teacher in a different venue). Sometimes I think it must have been inherited. There is something exciting about helping a student to understand and grow. I have always found fulfillment in this. To paraphrase an old proverb; if the student does not surpass the teacher, then the teacher has failed. I take this to heart.  Perhaps this has always shown through with me as I was offered a professorship at my alma mater, PCOM, upon completion of my residency. I have been associated with some form of education ever since.

What was the most important piece of advice you have received during your medical education?

“Learn one new fact every day”. Do the math and think of the total knowledge you have gained.

What do you believe is the toughest challenge facing physicians today? What suggestions do you have in fixing the problems?

Today’s medical world is making advances and new discoveries at an exponential rate. It is difficult for even the brightest to keep pace. We must therefore rely on our colleagues and other disciplines to help us with the best answers and therefore the best care, to support the patients entrusted to us. We all bring strengths to the table. No one should be left outside the door.

What does a typical day look like as Dean of a Medical School?

Long, fluid, multidirectional and ever changing. The Dean must lend focus to the program. It requires attentiveness to all parties; from students to faculty, to outside parties, to support personnel. Often it is being the facilitator that gets the right people together at the right time. Therefore it begins before sunrise and never actually ends. I find myself walking to meetings and offices all day. I find that, just as in being a physician, those you support, be it patient, family or staff, need your personal time.

What advice do you give undergraduate students seeking a career in medicine?

One must understand that it is a career and a profession. It can become life consuming often and unfortunately at the expense of family and friends. You must always be vigilant to those in your life outside of medicine.  But with such sacrifice comes rewards unobtainable by any other means. The road is long and never ending and the responsibilities immense. If this excites you, then you must do it. If this excites you, your undergraduate studies will fall into place. If this excites you, you will succeed.