School of osteopathy to open in Blacksburg, Virginia A private foundation announced plans Monday to establish a school of osteopathic medicine in Blacksburg in the fall of 2003. Organizers say the school will train doctors to work in medically underserved rural areas and will undertake joint research with Virginia Tech's biotechnology and bioinformatics programs. The school was announced by the Harvey W. Peters Foundation, which operates a 14-year-old Parkinson's disease research laboratory at Virginia Tech funded by the late Roanoke philanthropist Marion Bradley Via. The school is to be named for her son, Edward Via, who with his brother, Peter, inherited the fortune left by their mother when she died in 1993. Edward Via "is a longtime supporter of the Harvey Peters Foundation and is interested in seeing the establishment of a college of medicine in Southwest Virginia," said John Rocovich, foundation chairman. Rocovich declined to state the cost of the school or describe the details of private financing. The foundation hopes to locate the school in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, which is adjacent to the campus. Osteopathic medicine is a branch of medicine that emphasizes a whole body approach to health care and healing. Osteopathic physicians employ all the tools of doctors and have equivalent training and licensing. Virginia has about 500 licensed osteopathic doctors, according to Dr. Roy Heaton, president of the Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association. The Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine, which plans to seek accreditation from the American Osteopathic Association, would be the 20th school of osteopathic medicine in the nation. It would be the state's fourth medical school. Existing schools are the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk and the University of Virginia Medical School in Charlottesville. The dean will be Dr. Dixie Rawlins, former acting dean at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri. "In addition to educating the next generation of osteopathic physicians," she said in a prepared release, "we plan for the college to produce a significant amount of medical research. With Virginia Tech's emerging strengths in biotechnology applications and bioinformatics, there should be powerful synergies." Virginia Tech also intends to explore a telemedicine initiative. Telemedicine is a concept under which off-site physicians communicate electronically with health care providers in an outlying location such as a rural health clinic to provide care to residents of such an area. Tech also may provide some of the proposed college's faculty. The college also intends to hire its own staff. Many rural Virginia communities need doctors. Statewide, there is one physician for every 1,695 citizens. According to a report released earlier this year by the Southwest Virginia Graduate Medical Education Consortium, many communities in western Virginia have ratios of 1 to 5,000 or more citizens. The college would not provide health care on its campus. Students would receive clinical training in hospitals. Carilion Health System said it is exploring how its hospitals and medical practices might assist the college. The foundation is named for the tax attorney of the Allen-Bradley Co., a Milwaukee, Wis., maker of industrial electrical controls founded by Harry Bradley, the father of Marion Via. The company is part of Rockwell Automation today. Harvey Peters died of Parkinson's disease. The Harvey W. Peters Research Center at Tech investigates central nervous system disorders, including Parkinson's and epilepsy, from chemical and biochemical perspectives. Since it opened in 1987, it has received more than $13 million in outside research funding from such groups as the National Institutes of Health and pharmaceutical makers, including Pfizer. It is headed by Dr. Neal Castagnoli, a professor of chemistry at Tech.