Idaho State Journal - Proposed Idaho medical school one step closer to opening its doors

MERIDIAN — The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine can begin construction after receiving the necessary approval from a national accreditation agency.

The American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation has awarded the proposed medical school its pre-accreditation status. This allows the school to break ground this month so it can open its doors to students in the fall of 2018.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for ICOM will take place on May 17. Details are being finalized and will be released soon.

Earlier this year, school officials had said that if work did not get underway by the end of April, the opening would be pushed to 2019.

Pre-accreditation is a critical step in the accreditation process, which included the submission of a feasibility study, an on-site inspection, a public comment period and multiple in-person testimonials to the accreditation committee.

Additionally, ICOM was required to deposit more than $37 million in escrow and operating reserves.

“This is a monumental day for Idaho’s first medical school,” Robert Hasty, ICOM’s founding dean and chief academic officer, said in a written statement. “ICOM will be a game changer and make an incredible impact on the health of the region for generations to come. Idahoans will be proud of their first medical school.”

ICOM will be a privately funded medical school located at Idaho State University’s Health Science Center in Meridian.

When it opens, the school aims to admit as many as 150 students in its first year, charging around $40,000 in annual tuition. Doctors of osteopathic medicine are licensed physicians who provide a range of services, such as prescribing drugs and performing surgery.

“The process of securing pre-accreditation is rigorous and challenging — and certainly represents a major milestone in our efforts to date,” said Tracy Farnsworth, ICOM president, in a news release. “We are absolutely committed to opening Idaho’s first college of medicine and are grateful to our healthcare partners and other stakeholders from around the state and region who support our efforts and understand the tremendous need for more physicians in Idaho and beyond.”

Idaho is ranked 49th for the number of physicians per capita and 50th for lack of primary care physicians per capita in the nation.

Idaho is the most populous state without a medical school, and ICOM plans to change those statistics with an estimated 50 percent of ICOM students expected to become primary care physicians. According to ICOM officials, Idahoans will have priority admission to the program and students will be encouraged to serve residents in rural communities.

“I’m grateful for the progress that’s being made and I look forward to ICOM’s full accreditation so Idaho can start producing homegrown physicians to meet the demands of our growing population,” Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said in a news release. “This is an enterprise that holds great promise for helping improve health care accessibility and affordability for all our citizens. I applaud everyone who is working hard to make ICOM a reality.”

Affiliations with 22 hospitals, medical centers and health care organizations have been secured for ICOM students to start rotations in 2020. More than $5 million has been allocated for the development of residency programs during the first 10 years.

However, critics have raised concerns that the region lacks enough residencies to accommodate all those would-be doctors when the first class graduates in 2022, according to the Associated Press.

The cost of building the facility in Meridian is estimated to cost upwards of $34 million, all privately funded. According to school officials, the state of Idaho is expected to gain financially with an economic impact of more than $500 million in the first 10 years of full operation.

“Idaho is the epicenter for the developing critical physician shortage,” Hasty said. “In addition to giving opportunities for Idahoans to become physicians, ICOM will advance the public good and our graduates will improve the lives of so many.”