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Thanks to the energy and persistence of Sen. Joseph Maressa, Dr. Howard Levine and Dr. Joseph Riley, the legislation to create SOM, the first four-year medical school in South Jersey, was signed by Gov. Brendan Byrne in 1976. The following year, 24 future physicians began their careers as members of the inaugural class at New Jersey’s only osteopathic medical school.

SOM’s second decade welcomed the establishment of the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging (then called the Center for Aging). A statewide center of excellence, the NJISA trains health care professionals while providing medical care and public policy advocacy to benefit older adults and their families.

In 1988, one year after SOM established its footprint on the Stratford campus, the CARES (Child Abuse Research, Education and Service) Institute opened its doors as the diagnostic and treatment center serving the needs of children who have suffered abuse or neglect.

That was followed by a decade of firsts that solidified SOM’s reputation among the nation’s premier osteopathic medical schools. SOM was the first osteopathic medical school to hold a White Coat ceremony (1996), the first to offer dental medicine as part of its curriculum (1997), the first to offer a problem-based learning curriculum (1998) and one of the first American medical schools to require that all students receive specific training in geriatrics.

The July 2013 integration into Rowan University has expanded the school’s reputation and reach. SOM has become a bustling hub for research, education and patient care. The largest proportion of SOM graduates live and practice in New Jersey, with almost half specializing in primary care.

Since 2009, SOM has received consistent approval from its accrediting agency to increase class size. In 2019, SOM enrolled an entering class of 202 students, more than doubling the size of the class that entered the school a decade ago. With its newly opened Sewell campus, SOM enrolled over 280 future physicians this year, the largest entering class of any medical school in New Jersey.

In January 2022, Rowan University and Virtua Health entered into an historic partnership between a top 100 public research university and the largest health system in southern New Jersey to create the Virtua Health College of Medicine & Life Sciences of Rowan University. The new college will encompass the Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine; an expanded nursing and allied health professions school; a new school of translational biomedical engineering and sciences; multiple new research institutes; and aligned clinical practices to improve patient care and train the workforce of the future.