You can see the ICOM building from a mile away, its acronym boldly emblazoned in an upper corner.
Idaho’s first medical school makes an architectural statement alongside Interstate 84 at Locust Grove Road in Meridian. Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine Founding Dean and Chief Academic Officer CEO Robert Hasty has equally lofty aspirations.
“This will be the best medical school in the country,” Hasty said during a recent tour with Commercial Real Estate Women, or CREW. The school’s four-year maiden voyage with an inaugural class of up to 162 students starts Aug. 19.
Students will study two years at ICOM and then do two years of clinical rotations at hospitals to earn a doctorate of osteopathic medicine. ICOM is establishing 33 health care affiliations in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota or North Dakota for clinical rotations and residencies.
For now, the 62-foot-tall, three-story structure is still a construction zone. Some carpeting is in place but interiors are still bare concrete.
But for the past four to six months the first 61 faculty members have been onboard, assembling the ICOM curriculum in temporary space in Boise. Hasty anticipates having 75 full-time faculty by the time classes start and 104 faculty when the first class graduates in four years.
So far about half the clinical faculty and about a third of biomedical faculty come from Idaho. Hasty said the faculty also includes several doctors retiring to Idaho from elsewhere.
As of March 29, ICOM had commitments from 131 students from numerous states.
The $34 million Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine will add some architectural flair, courtesy of the Albuquerque architecture firm Dekker/Perich/Sabatini.
The three-story atrium beyond the entrance has a “floating staircase” leading up to the upper levels. The second story has one multipurpose room with all glass walls on three sides. The same glass wall dynamic continues to the third floor ICOM Café.
ICOM incorporated a “mother’s room,” where nursing mothers can follow lectures by video. The building features 100 percent LED lighting and abundant daylight.
ICOM has two 250-seat auditoriums and a 3,479-square-foot Osteopathic Principles and Practices Room, the building’s largest wide-open space, where there will be 40 tables for students to perform manipulative techniques on each other.
The library is more about smaller rooms for collaboration with technology to hook a student’s iPAD to the large screens in these rooms. Along with normal tables, the library will have high tables for students who want to work standing up or on a stool.
“We’ll also have books. Not many, because everything is electronic,” said Tony Bendall, ICOM’s executive director of undergraduate medical education.
Faculty and administrative offices are on the third floor, purposely designed to reward the faculty.
“Leadership has the highway (view),” Hasty noted. “Faculty has the mountains.”
ICOM has 12 exam rooms where students take care of volunteer human patients with pretend ailments. ICOM also has six simulation labs with eight high-fidelity mannequins, each costing $70,000, operated with wireless iPads.
“The mannequins can react like real people,” Hasty said. “They can bleed. They can sweat. Their pupils dilate.”
The simulation labs represent an intensive care unit, a labor and delivery room, and an emergency room.
The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine will affiliate itself with hospitals across Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota.
The idea is to send third-and-fourth-year ICOM students to these hospitals for clinical rotations, and after their graduation, potentially have these new doctors do their residencies and set up practices in these states.
The Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls is launching its first internal medicine residency program this summer to give it a four-year trial run with out-of-state medical school graduates until the first graduating class emerges from ICOM in 2022. EIRMC launched its residency program in conjunction the ICOM, said Lee Biggs, the hospital's chief medical officer.
EIRMC will start with 10 internal medicine residents and ramp up to 30, with 10 residents for each year of the three-year residency program. The 334-bed Idaho Falls hospital will launch a family medicine residency program in summer 2019 with six residents for each year, ultimately with 18 covering all three years, Biggs said.
EIRMC will also have four or five third-and-fourth-year ICOM students at a time doing their clinical rotations in Idaho Falls.
“2020 will be the first time we see ICOM students coming into our facility as learners,” Biggs said.
Biggs said ICOM – and its graduates – should help take a bite out of Idaho’s ranking as the 49th†lowest state with doctors per capita.
“When a medical student finishes medical school and goes into residency, they will generally choose to practice within 50 miles of where they train,” Biggs said. “Our residency program hopes to capitalize on that metric.”
A 2016 Idaho’s Physician Workforce study determined that Idaho ranked No. 9 among states in retaining physicians who do their residency in Idaho. The retention rate was 54 percent, but only 8 percent of Idaho physicians did their residencies in Idaho, according to University of Washington Center of Health Workforce Studies, which did the study.
The study said the top five medical schools Idaho doctors graduated from are the University of Washington, University of Utah, Loma Linda University, Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, and Oregon Health and Science University.
“We really hope to pump our graduates into our community to become primary care providers,” Biggs said. “We want to see growth in primary care (in Idaho Falls).”
The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine ended up in Meridian because founder Dan Burrell was looking for some place in American with a shortage of doctors and came upon the entire tier of northern states between Oregon and Minnesota.
“We couldn’t have done anywhere else in five states what we can do here,” ICOM CEO Robert Hasty said of Meridian.
ICOM is located on Idaho State University’s Meridian campus, which houses ISU Meridian Health Science Center. ICOM has had its offices in the center during construction and Hasty expects collaboration opportunities between ISU and the privately-owned ICOM.
ICOM construction was primarily funded by Burrell and the Rice Management Company, which oversees the endowment at Rice University in Houston. Burrell previously founded the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine near New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
Hasty was recruited to ICOM from Campbell University in North Carolina. He was intrigued by the chance to establish a medical college from a “clean slate.”
“We’re truly going to improve health care for the region,” he said. “Here it’s a brand new slate. We haven’t done anything before.”
ICOM will be the 34th†osteopathy college in the U.S. Osteopathic medicine focuses on achieving a high level of wellness through health promotion and disease prevention and “and unlocking the body’s innate ability to heal itself,” according to American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.
Tony Bendall, ICOM’s executive director of undergraduate medical education, describes it as considering the whole body when addressing a specific ailment.
More than 20 percent of U.S. medical students are training to become osteopathic physicians, according to AACOM.