When Jamie Beckman started as a South Dakota State University student, he didn’t see himself serving as the national chair of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine’s Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents.
Beckman, a Rapid City native and 2012 music and preprofessional health graduate from State, was initially going to teach music. When he arrived on campus for Senior Day, he was welcomed by The Pride of Dakotas and got to play with them in the stands for a football game. That experience sold him on attending South Dakota State.
Now a member of the Class of 2020 at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Beckman’s path from music to medicine was not anything remotely resembling a straight line.
A percussionist, he played snare drum with The Pride for five years and also performed in the SDSU Orchestra, Symphonic Band and Percussion Ensemble. He also spent summers as a drumline instructor at a Washington high school where his brother, Jeremy, was on staff as a math teacher.
“I loved teaching drumline but I started to see problems in teaching that had nothing to do with education,” Beckman said. “I didn’t see a win there, and I’m not against fighting for something but there has to be a win at the end. While I still enjoy playing, I didn’t know if I wanted to do that for the rest of my life.”
However, Beckman did not make the switch to a premedicine route until his junior year. He thought of working as an optometrist but a shadowing experience with Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls had him thinking of becoming an ophthalmologist.
That led him to meet with Assistant Professor Greg Heiberger, who became his academic advisor.
After graduating with nearly 200 credits, Beckman then earned a master’s degree in physiology at the University of Arizona.
He then got a call from Heiberger, asking if he was interested in osteopathic medicine.
“Looking back, that call changed my life,” Beckman said, noting he had other career plans at the time. “However, a year down the road, I really took a look at osteopathic medicine and saw it tied into what I learned in physiology. I then called Greg back and said I was really interested. That first call with Greg is why I got into medical school.”
South Dakota State and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine have been partners since 2013 and Heiberger said 16 South Dakota State students have been offered admission to attend VCOM in that time. VCOM has locations in Blacksburg, Virginia; Spartanburg, South Carolina (Beckman’s campus); and Auburn, Alabama.
“VCOM has been nothing short of incredible. I really love VCOM; it reminds me a lot of SDSU,” Beckman said. “I’m so glad I’m at VCOM. It all started with the interview process, which was very impressive. When I came here, I was told ‘we want you to come here, and we’re looking to accept you.’ I went on a tour of the town, had students come talk about the experience and met with faculty who were not part of the original interview. When I left there, I knew I was going there.”
Once at VCOM, Beckman was elected as the president of the Class of 2020 and then was elected president of VCOM’s student government association. That position represents VCOM at a national level. It took a year at the national level before he felt comfortable there.
“When I went to my first national meeting, I felt that I was incredibly inadequate,” he said. “But by working hard and writing resolutions, I made myself known and tried to get my name out there. Typically, the chair position goes to a fourth-year or rising fourth-year student but I thought I’d take a chance at the April election.”
He won and Beckman now serves as what he described as the president for all 30,000 osteopathic medicine students.
“I haven’t grasped the full responsibility of the position but I’m going to be in charge for our meeting next week (in Chicago), I think then the full weight of the position will really hit me,” he said.
“I know the reason I’m where I am today is all due to attending South Dakota State,” Beckman continued. “I try to keep up with as much as possible and would love to have the opportunity to come back and talk to the premed and other preprofessional health students. I’d love to give back to the program that allowed me to fulfill my dreams of becoming a physician. Just knowing I had one person believing in me changed my life.”