NO STRANGER TO A BLANK SLATE
FRANCINE ANDERSON, PhD, PT | Chair of Anatomy
Graduate of Texas Woman’s University
BY HAVEN HOTTEL, PHOTO BY BENNETT SCARBOROUGH
Recruiting students. Creating curriculum. Educating the community. Launching the first osteopathic medical school in North Carolina is a daunting task. But Francine Anderson isn’t fazed — she’s done it before and she knows it can be done again.
Anderson, the new chair of Anatomy for the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine, was there in the beginning for the start of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) in Blacksburg, Va., the first osteopathic medical school in that state. “The challenges were huge in terms of establishing a medical school and perceptions of the community and osteopathic medicine… but once we got through that door and began educating the public, educating communities about osteopathic medicine and what the education entailed, the attitude of the community was like 'Oh, this is pretty cool,'" she says.
Born and raised in the military, Anderson studied physical therapy at Howard University. She worked in private practice for some years between military moves before returning to school to earn her PhD in physical therapy from Texas Woman’s University, becoming the first African American to graduate from the program. After moving with her family to Virginia, she joined the VCOM faculty as the anatomy discipline leader for the school and later became anatomy chair and eventually associate dean.
“It’s one of those things that taught me to never say ‘never.’ You never know where you’re going to end up as long as you keep one foot in front of the other,” says Anderson. “I don’t think anything happens by accident. When opportunities arise, I always say, ‘Well, let’s see.’”
It’s that “let’s see” attitude that led her to Buies Creek. When her daughter and her husband of Raleigh welcomed Anderson’s first grandchild and she learned that fellow VCOM faculty alumnus John Kauffman was named dean at Campbell’s new osteopathic medical school, her interest was piqued.
“It wasn’t my plan to move here. I had no idea at this age and this stage in my life that I would be starting again at a new school. I had no idea,” says Anderson. “But I knew from my past experience at VCOM, that the challenges would be similar, because I had already done it. Not that we’re not going to have bumps along the way. I feel like I am prepared for that in coming here.”
Anderson says she has always been fascinated by the study of human anatomy and says osteopathic medicine is uniquely designed to fully utilize a clear knowledge of gross anatomy to promote health.
“Through osteopathic manipulative medicine, we have to know the mechanics of the musculoskeletal system in order to treat it, to know that this sort of treatment will increase blood flow to this area, or this sort of treatment will improve alignment or will improve the elasticity of tissues,” she says.
Of course, technology has also enhanced the study of anatomy by allowing the addition of cameras and visual aids to promote a clinical understanding of basic medical knowledge.
“The problem with anatomy was always the volume of information to learn. But now, with so many methods to deliver that information and the fact that we can integrate basic anatomy with clinical anatomy like radiology, we’re able to present an integrated picture to students,” says Anderson. “So, as we are teaching the skeletal system, we can show X-rays of an ailment. We’re able to integrate the basic sciences with the clinical sciences and utilize all of our technology for such a visual topic.”