Idaho Press Tribune - Proposed medical school secures pre-accreditation, plans May 17 groundbreaking

A private medical school seeking to build in Meridian has earned the pre-accreditation needed to start construction.

When completed, the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, or ICOM, will be the first medical school in Idaho.

The accrediting body — the American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation — previously delayed issuing pre-accreditation to ICOM, which threatened to push back the school's opening.

With the status now approved, ICOM plans to break ground on a $34 million, privately-funded facility on May 17. The college is scheduled to open in August 2018 for a class of 150 students.

"ICOM will be a game changer and make an incredible impact on the health of the region for generations to come," founding Dean and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Robert Hasty said in a statement.

ICOM will lease land from Idaho State University in Meridian but will operate independently as a private entity.

The pre-accreditation process included the submission of a feasibility study, an onsite inspection, a public comment period and in-person testimonials to the accreditation committee. ICOM was also required to deposit more than $37 million in escrow and operating reserves, according to the press release.

"We are absolutely committed to opening Idaho’s first college of medicine," stated ICOM President Tracy Farnsworth.

ICOM's mission is to train osteopathic physicians to practice medicine primarily in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Idahoans will have priority admission to the medical school.

Idaho ranks 49th for the number of physicians per capita and 50th for lack of primary care physicians per capita in the nation, according to the press release from ICOM.

Idaho is the most populous state without a medical school, according to ICOM. But the state reserves seats for Idaho students in the University of Washington's WWAMI medical education program and at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Gov C.L. "Butch" Otter and Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd praised ICOM's accreditation progress in prepared statements.

"This is a huge win for the Treasure Valley,” De Weerd stated.

ICOM, according to the press release, has secured affiliations with 22 hospitals, medical centers and health care organizations for students who will start rotations in 2020. Medical rotations throughout the community are a required part of the medical education process.

Members of the medical community throughout ICOM's region have expressed concern over whether local hospitals and medical organizations are prepared to handle an influx of new medical students and graduates who need training.

According to ICOM, more than $5 million has been allocated for the development of residency programs in the first 10 years.