Idaho is facing a physician shortage, ranking 49th out of the 50 states in active physicians per capita. Idaho must take immediate action to address this crisis. Settling for the status quo will result in dire health consequences for Idahoans and the economy of the state. The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, ICOM, will train expert and caring osteopathic physicians prepared to meet the needs of rural and underserved persons in Idaho and the region.
Osteopathic physicians are highly sought after for graduate medical education positions, which is important because accreditation standards for osteopathic medical schools require at least 98 percent placement of graduates. In 2015, graduates of osteopathic medical schools had a 99.41 percent placement into residency positions.
In 2015, foreign medical graduates filled 31.2 percent of all first-year residency positions. That is a total of 8,655 positions. Beginning in 2022, ICOM plans to graduate 150 osteopathic physicians each year, but even then the nation will still be reliant on foreign-trained physicians to fill those positions.
Approximately 43 Idaho residents each year leave the state to seek an osteopathic medical degree. ICOM will accept 150 students annually, giving those students an option right here at home. ICOM will also serve a five-state region (Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota), with preference given to Idaho students. While all of ICOM students will spend their preclinical years in the classroom and labs at the Meridian campus, only a portion of the students will be attending clinical rotations in Idaho, and the students will be assigned to clinical sites throughout the five-state region.
Nearly 50 percent of graduates of osteopathic medical schools practice within the same state, and with the creation of graduate medical education opportunities in Idaho, we can expect more than 50 percent of ICOM’s graduates to practice medicine, raise families and contribute to our communities in Idaho.
While graduates will be able to attend residency programs throughout the U.S., ICOM will be investing time and resources in developing additional residency programs throughout the five-state region in advance of the first anticipated graduating class to help advance the mission. The intention of these newly created residency programs will be to help meet the needs of the regions by training physicians in specialties to help serve the health care needs.
Once accredited, ICOM’s tuition will be less than the national average for private, independent osteopathic medical schools. ICOM will not be supported by taxpayers. In fact, ICOM will pay taxes. ICOM will be responsible for the entire cost to build the facility and upfront cost. ICOM will also be a B Corporation whose focus will be for the public good by delivering on its mission.
This is an exciting time for Idaho, for medicine and for education. Rather than fearing change, sitting idle while our population ages and has increasing health care needs, and continuing to accept the status quo, we must be bold enough to embrace progress, offer solutions and pave a bright future for Idaho’s future physicians.
Robert Hasty, DO, FACOI, FACP, is founding dean of the proposed Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM) — Applicant Status.