- Associated Press - Sunday, May 18, 2014

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - Starting a medical school at William Carey University was a formidable task.

“It was a huge undertaking for William Carey. We had never undertaken anything of this magnitude at all,” William Carey President Tommy King said. “There was a lot of skepticism and doubt locally, internally and throughout the state.”

Becoming a member of William Carey’s first medical class in 2010 also was a formidable task.

“There were some bumps and some bruises at first,” said Jeremy Rainey of Clinton, a member of the inaugural class.

Despite the doubts, and despite the bruises, William Carey’s College of Osteopathic Medicine will triumphantly cross a finish line of sorts this month and not just because the school graduates its first four-year class of 91 students on May 24.

School officials recently received the golden trophy that comes with graduating an initial class. They now have full seven-year accreditation with the American Osteopathic Association Council’s Commission on Osteopathic Accreditation.

“We’re just so excited right now. The medical school is just abuzz with excitement,” said Jim Turner, College of Osteopathic Medicine dean.

Class president Richard Calderone of Slidell, Louisiana, is one of those students who will walk in the May 24 commencement. He’s seen it all, both good and bad, since he signed up to study at just the second medical school in the state - the University of Mississippi Medical Center being the other - in 2010.

Calderone was one of 1,100 students to apply for Carey’s first class. That number has since ballooned to 2,500 applicants for this past academic year.

“When I first got here, I knew it was right for me, but I couldn’t tell you it was right for a lot of other students,” Calderone said.

He holds a different opinion now.

“I recommend it to anybody now,” he said.

Some of the difficulties involved overly burdensome class loads, as the school attempted to construct a suitable curriculum for first- and second-year students.

“We were taking a lot of classes. Basically we were there 8-5 every day,” Rainey said. “We didn’t get many breaks at all.”

There also was turnover in administrative leadership. William Carey officials did not to renew founding dean Michael Murphy’s contract in January 2011, six months into the school’s first year.

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