Nearly one year ago, the proposed Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM) was announced at the governor’s office alongside dozens of supporters. On that historic day, we knew we had several opportunities in front of us: the opportunity to grow graduate medical education in our state so more students can stay and train in Idaho and surrounding states; the opportunity to partner with great hospital systems already doing innovative work; and the opportunity to educate the next generation of physicians in Idaho.
Of course, with most great opportunities come obstacles. We’ve encountered some opposition along the way — conversations we readily entertained to educate on the dire need for physicians in Idaho and the huge economic opportunity of Idaho’s own medical school. Many of the initial concerns have been alleviated with more information and the demonstrative progress ICOM has made in the last year. We’ve worked hard to foster strong partnerships, build a formidable team, and recruit enthusiastic and talented preceptors.
In December 2016, ICOM presented at our first public accreditation hearing in Chicago. It was the first important step toward securing the future of medical education and improving access to health care in Idaho. Prior to that meeting, ICOM hosted accreditation inspectors in Meridian. While both meetings returned favorable reviews, the commissioners — as is often the case — determined the need for further review. In researching the accreditation process, we anticipated this possibility. In the end, the time allows ICOM the opportunity to continue critical conversations and education. ICOM anticipates being on the agenda for the next accreditation body meeting and we are excited to participate in the next step of this rigorous and thoughtful process.
ICOM has secured a Letter of Intent from Benefis Health System in Montana for 78 new residency positions. They are committed to these positions and will soon resubmit an application to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. We are confident Benefis — and other ICOM partners — will be ready to accept ICOM residents by their 2022 medical school graduation date. ICOM has also made significant progress with other hospitals and health systems, and will make additional announcements soon.
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Idaho still ranks 49th in terms of physicians per capita. Our state is growing, and our need for physicians continues to grow. Having an Idaho-based medical school will ensure a steady supply of physicians for Idaho and the region. It will also give local opportunities for Idahoans to go to medical school. ICOM will be a private medical school supported through tuition rather than taxes.
ICOM is on the right track and is making great progress. The process of bringing a medical school to Idaho is a complex and worthy endeavor. It will also bring significant and lasting social and economic impact to our state and region. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of the medical community and of our many friends and stakeholders across the region to help make this a reality.
Robert Hasty, DO, FACOI, FACP, is the ICOM founding dean and chief academic officer. Tracy Farnsworth, EdD, MHSA, MBA, is the ICOM president and chief executive officer.