Post Register - Rigby native among Idaho medical school’s first class

Alex Olaveson was first introduced to the medical field through the world of animals. Between the barking dogs and the meowing cats, he became intrigued with how to help another living creature while working in his father’s veterinary clinic.

His interest in medicine only grew as he got older and started to shadow doctors. In particular, family practitioners. He liked the idea of building relationships with his patients and being a part of the community, so he decided to go to medical school with the intention of going into family practice.

Olaveson grew up in Rigby and calls Idaho home, with the mountains, desert climate and his family nearby it’s the perfect fit for him. When he heard that Idaho was opening its first medical school, the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, he knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

Clair Eckersell, his cell biology professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho, said he’s convinced Olaveson will make an excellent physician. Eckersell has known him since he was born, and is a friend of the family.

“He’s very bright, very compassionate and always looking out for other students,” Eckersell said. “He’s devoted to people.”

After interviews, applications, volunteering and the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) — Olaveson got the good news. He was accepted into the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine’s inaugural class.

The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine will occupy a 94,000-square-foot building in Meridian next to Idaho State University’s Meridian Health Science Center, the Idaho Statesman reported. The schools are affiliated, and students will be able to use facilities at ISU during their training.

Eckersell is sure Olaveson is going to be a good representative for the medical school. He said Olaveson had the ability to go anywhere yet chose to stay in Idaho.

The school is opening in Meridian and will start class in August. So far, the school has accepted 18 students, 17 of them from Idaho.The school plans on having 150 students in its first medical class. So far, Olaveson is the only eastern Idahoan in the inaugural class.

The school will offer a degree in Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, which is a little different than the more common Doctor of Medicine degree. Both types of doctors are licensed in all 50 states, while Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine are more likely to go into general practice, according to the school’s website.

Osteopathic medicine originated from the teachings of Andrew Taylor Still, and looks at the body as a whole. Health is related to the body, mind and spirit, according to the school’s website.

Idaho needs doctors in rural areas and opened the medical school as a way to address this problem. The school selected students who want to return to their hometowns to practice medicine and combat the rural doctor shortage, according to a news release.

Olaveson said the doctor shortage played a small role in influencing his decision, but it was really shadowing the family doctors that captured his heart. He remembers a conversation he had with one of the doctors that really stood out to him.

“His favorite thing in the job, kids he worked on 20 years ago he’s working on their kids now,” he said. “To be able to see that progression, that’s really special.”

Becoming a family physician also ties in some of Alex’s core values, including the idea that “family is everything.” He grew up spending a lot of quality time with his family, to dedicate his live to helping other families makes sense to him.

His father, George, always encouraged his children to go into a profession, such as the medical field, where they can do what they want and live where they want.

“If we pursue education while we’re younger we’re never going to regret it,” George said.

Olaveson is expecting to start his own family soon, his wife is expecting twin girls and is due around June. Though medical school will be a lot of work, he’s confident he can complete his education while juggling family life.

“Hundreds of people do it, thousands of people do it. They go to medical school and still have families, it can be done, it just takes work,”Olaveson said.