Miami Herald - Idaho's first medical school slated to open in 2018

MERIDIAN, IDAHO

The first medical school in Idaho has been slated to open in August 2018, pending its accreditation.

Gov. Butch Otter spoke at a ceremony Wednesday, where he told doubters: "You were wrong, we were right," The Idaho Press-Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/2qB25FL ).

The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine in Meridian will be a private, for-profit college.

Idaho ranks 50th nationwide in terms of family doctors per capita. Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd is optimistic that could change, though, now that students do not need to leave the state to become doctors.

"We've been an exporter of our talent — of our kids — and as they leave the state to get a medical education, it is hard to get them back," De Weerd said.

An estimated $125 million of private investment is going toward the college. No tax dollars are being used to build, Chief Academic Officer Robert Hasty said.

The state of Idaho has approved a $3.85 million tax reimbursement incentive for the project. That will be put toward student scholarships, Hasty said.

The tax incentive is one reason why Burrell Group, the college's main investor, chose Idaho over Montana, which was the original proposed location, Daniel Burrell said.

Another factor was the available medical infrastructure in Idaho, he said, including the Idaho State University Meridian Health Science Center, which is next to the college's future 94,000-square-foot (8,733-square-meter), $34 million facility.

Idaho has been purchasing 50 medical school seats each year through institutions in Washington and Utah. The college could add another 150 graduates to that total starting in 2020.

Some physicians in Idaho have expressed concern with the increased number, saying there are not enough residency programs for an influx of students.

Idaho has 42 openings in residency programs each year, which is the second lowest per capita in the country.

Burrell, however, doesn't think a lack of residency positions will be an issue. The college is offering $5 million throughout 10 years as seed money for new residency positions in the five-state region, with a goal of keeping graduates and new doctors in the region, Burrell said.

Around the country, more than 99 percent of osteopathic graduates are placed in a residency program, he said.

"We don't see a scenario right now where there'd be any issue with placing our students," he said.