Fifteen SUU Alumni Enter Medical School

Published: September 26, 2017 | Read Time: 3 minutes

Joanna Durfee, Jared Wilson, Haley Shumway, Cody Patterson, Colson Healy, Taylor Sirrine, and Jake Allinson.  Not pictured: Paydon Newman and Chris Sauceda
RVUCOM SU White Coat: From left to right: Joanna Durfee, Jared Wilson, Haley Shumway, Cody Patterson, Colson Healy, Taylor Sirrine, and Jake Allinson.  Not pictured: Paydon Newman and Chris Sauceda.

Fifteen graduates of Southern Utah University (SUU) recently received their White Coat as a formal representation of the beginning of their journey as a medical student. These students are a part of the class of 2021 at Rocky Vista College of Osteopathic Medicine (RVUCOM) and represent both their Parker, Colorado and new Ivins, Utah campuses.

On July 21, 2017, six of these students celebrated the start of their journey to becoming physicians at the Colorado campus. These include Brandon Bealer (Cedar City, Utah), Colby Presley (Blythe, California), EJ Leavitt (Cedar City, Utah), Jaron Matsunaka (Hilo, Hawaii), Levi Myers (St. George, Utah) and Trystan Blake (Herriman, Utah). The RVUCOM-CO campus was founded in 2006 and currently hosts programs in osteopathic medicine, biomedical sciences, and physician assistant studies.

The new Southern Utah campus garnered the most SUU students, making them RVUCOM-SU’s forth undergraduate feeder school, with nine students enrolled in their inaugural class. Proud members include Jake Allinson (Goshen, Utah), Joanna Durfee (Cedar City, Utah), Colson Healy (Provo, Utah), Haley Shumway (Lehi, Utah), Paydon Newman (St. George, Utah), Cody Patterson (Santa Clara, Utah), Chris Sauceda (Cedar City, Utah), Taylor Sirrine (Cedar City, Utah), and Jared Wilson (Richfield, Utah).

The Southern Utah White Coat Ceremony was held at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins, Utah on September 16, 2017. Keynote speaker Dr. Thomas Told explained how his vision for a medical school in Southern Utah has been a dream of his since he was a pre-medical student himself, seeking to become a rural family practice physician. Dr. Told indicates, “As a young boy, I promised myself I’d become a country doctor and return one day to help the small towns of Utah find and keep their doctors since so many students must leave the state to become physicians.”

SUU Alumni Group Picture
RVUCOM CO White Coat: From left to right: Trystan Blake, Brandon Bealer, EJ Leavitt, Jaron Matsunaka, Colby Presley, and Levi Myers.

To emphasize RVUCOM’s dedication to rural medicine, Dr. Told had the class of 2021 stand up, and sit down based on various ‘rural prompts’ related to their upbringing. The four students who remained standing at the end were from very small communities, and were tasked to share their passion for rural areas with their classmates over their next few years. This commitment to serving rural and underserved populations is evident in RVUCOM’s mission and choice of Ivins as a campus location.

During medical school, each student will complete didactic curriculum, clinical rotations, and a full residency in their area of specialty. The RVUCOM incoming classes consist of 135 students per campus and 55% of the Ivins students are from Utah. Classes are shared between the two campuses electronically, so faculty and curriculum are identical. RVUCOM boasts many accolades as an osteopathic medical school, including being ranked as the top innovator in medicine for 2014 by 5280 Magazine, ranked as one of the ten least expensive schools by US News & World Report, and designated as a Military Friendly School. More details can be found online at

All students were members of the SUU Rural Health Scholars Program, which provides additional services for students interested in careers in health care. This program is available at Southern Utah University, Dixie State University, Snow College, and Utah State University-Eastern in Price. Services assist students in becoming successful applicants to medical, nursing, podiatry, dental, pharmacy, and other health professions programs. Student applications are strengthened through a regimen of classes, seminars, community service, job shadowing, research and advisement. For more information about the Utah Center for Rural Health programs, contact Karen Ganss at 435-865-8660 or visit

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