BUIES CREEK, N.C. — Campbell University is opening the first new medical school in the state for decades.
The university welcomed 162 students to its school of osteopathic medicine on Monday. Its mission is to prepare students to serve as primary care doctors in underserved and rural areas.
"Our focus is training primary care doctors, people who have a heart for primary care medicine," said Dr. John Kauffman, the school's dean.
Nearby residents in Harnett County said the need for doctors in rural areas is very real.
"We're not rich. We're poor," said Raven Bullard. "My mama has to scrape up money to go all the way to Chapel Hill to take my little sister to the doctor."
Demand for primary care physicians is expected to increase sharply as people age, the state's population grows and health insurance laws change.
"If we don't start training more doctors, we're going to be in trouble," Kauffman said.
"Everybody doesn't have money to travel to get to good doctors," Bullard said. "We need good doctors everywhere, so everyone can get the same amount of healthcare."
The school will be the second largest in the state behind the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It will be the only school training osteopathic doctors, who emphasize wellness and disease prevention alongside traditional methods.
Student John Bunyasaranand said the program is an opportunity he couldn't pass up.
"By trade, I'm a special forces medic. I was stationed at Bragg. I really like the area and I really like rural care," he said. "Everything is brand new, state-of-the-art, and I didn't have to borrow any money. They had plenty of cash on hand, and the community threw in millions to help get it going."
North Carolina's other three medical schools are at Duke University, Wake Forest University and East Carolina University.