LEWISBURG, WV (WVNS) – The next generation of West Virginia doctors took a big step in their education Wednesday.

Second-year students at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine saw patients for the first time ever as part of the school’s Student Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine Clinic. It is a free clinic the school offers to residents of the community that doubles as the first chance for young medical students to really be someone’s doctor.

Clinic supervisor, Doctor Pam deWilde, said the first day of clinic is often a nerve-racking day for many students, but it is also a major step in their journeys to become doctors.

“The hope is that from today they gain a little bit more confidence that what they’ve been learning in medical school is now coming to fruition and that they’re actually becoming a physician,” deWilde told 59News.

During the clinic, WVSOM students got to make independent decisions about what treatments can best meet their patients’ needs and even performed osteopathic manipulations on patients who they determined needed them.

Maria Sena, now a third-year teaching assistant, recalled the emotions she felt when she walked into her patient’s room for the first time at last year’s clinic.

“I think they prepare us really well going into that first encounter,” said Sena. “But it’s still scary because it’s really your patient now.”

Dr. deWilde said the patients who came in with shoulder, back, or other pains and trusted the students to treat them provided a serious benefit by investing in the future of healthcare in West Virginia.

“This school could not exist without the wonderful support of the community,” said Dr. deWilde. “And they’re really being the first people to go in and train these new doctors on how to be good with patients.”