No bones about it! Idaho College of Medicine moves forward

Pre-med students at Idaho State University may not travel far for their future medical degrees. The proposed Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, open for enrollment as early as 2018, is slated to educate 150 medical students per year. The school, which is applying for accreditation at present, will be located at ISU’s health center in Meridian. “The mission [of ICOM] … is to train osteopathic physicians prepared for caring for persons in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and beyond,” saidRobert Hasty, Founding Dean and Chief Academic Officer. The region served by ICOM is home to only two medical schools, one in North Dakota and one in South Dakota. Idaho, Montana and Wyoming participate in University of Washington’s WWAMI program, which allows students to complete the foundations phase of medical school in their home states. The acronym stands for the states it serves, Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. According to announcements and ICOM’s website, Idaho students will receive preferential admissions consideration. Brecken Goff, an undeclared freshman in the health sciences division, said the college will be her first choice when she applies for medical school because of its proximity. “I think having a medical school in Idaho will benefit students,” Goff said. “Every medical student should have the option of staying in-state for school.” Plans for the school were announced by Governor Butch Otter in February 2016.

The groundbreaking for an iconic building will take place in February 2017, said Hasty, with an expected completion date of spring 2018. Contrary to much talk around campus, ICOM will be a private school independent of ISU. The school will use ISU’s facility, and ISU will have representation on its board of trustees.

ICOM will lease access at ISU-Meridian Health Science Center’s anatomy and physiology laboratory space for such purposes as cadaver dissection, according to Hasty.

The school will award Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degrees.

While most physicians have M.D.s, a 2015 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges found that a quarter of first-year medical students entered D.O. programs.

Osteopathy and allopathy M.D. program training are quite similar, but osteopathy includes a “more holistic approach to patient care,” according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

Both require students to take the MCAT and similar prerequisite courses. School officials and lawmakers hope ICOM will address a need for doctors, particularly primary-care physicians, in the area. Idaho ranks 49th in the U.S. for doctors per capita, according to StateImpact Idaho, a reporting project of Boise State Public Radio and NPR. The hope is that a medical school located in Idaho will inspire more physicians to stay in the state, although critics pin the doctor shortage more on a lack of residency opportunities than lack of medical schools. Hasty claimed the region has more than enough residency positions to accommodate ICOM students.

“ICOM will have clinical ‘hubs’ or sites throughout the region where medical students will be based for their third and fourth years of medical students,” he said. “Medical students will be supported by a regional dean, student coordinator and faculty at each of these sites where they will complete their required or ‘core’ rotations.”

The college has 9 hospital affiliates so far, and its leadership anticipates adding more before students begin clinical rotations in 2020. Affiliates in Idaho include St. Luke’s, Idaho Regional Medical Center, West Valley Medical Center and State Hospital South, according to Hasty.

He said the school will incorporate different learning methods into curriculum.

“Adult learners have the best outcomes when the learning is active and involves multiple modalities with frequent assessment,” he said. “ICOM’s curriculum will use problem-based learning, team-based learning, flipped classrooms, question banks, high-fidelity simulation, standardized patient encounters and hands-on laboratory experiences in addition to traditional classroom-based learning.”