Meridian Press - Idaho medical school wraps up first year, takes first steps toward accreditation

Idaho’s first medical school wrapped up its inaugural year last week, with a class of 162 students.

The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine opened in Meridian last year with a goal of filling the doctor shortage in Idaho. The state ranks 49th for the number of physicians and 50th for primary care physicians per capita in the nation, the Meridian Press previously reported.

With one year under its belt, the college is advancing toward accreditation. Earlier this month, the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation did a site visit and reviewed more than 1,000 pages of documents showing the college’s compliance with standards and rules, according to Dr. Tracy Farnsworth, ICOM’s president and chief executive officer. The commission also interviewed students and employees.

“Usually they give you a number of deficiencies,” Farnsworth said. “In our case, we didn’t receive any.”

ICOM won’t be fully accredited until it graduates its first class in 2022, but the clean report means they’re on the right track, said college spokeswoman Stephanie Dillon.

Accreditation from the commission is required for colleges of osteopathic medicine. ICOM is one of 35 in the nation.

Eventually the college would like to pursue a regional accreditation — allowing it to offer master’s programs outside of osteopathic medicine. That could include a master’s in public health administration or other master’s that are complementary to osteopathic medicine, Farnsworth said.

During its first year, ICOM partnered with Idaho State University Meridian to train its student-doctors alongside students in other parts of the health care profession.

“We have a broken health care system because many of our health care professional don’t work together,” Farnsworth said.

The two schools are neighbors along Interstate 84 in Meridian. Two to three times a semester, ICOM invited ISU students to participate in a lecture with student-doctors, Dillon said. Then students from both institutions broke into smaller groups, giving them a chance to understand each other and study together.

ICOM is a private, for-profit school with tuition in the $49,750 range. Students will earn a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree, or D.O., as opposed to a Doctor of Medicine degree, or M.D. Both groups are licensed physicians with similar schooling, training and practices, but their philosophies vary. Osteopathic medicine emphasizes holistic care and preventative treatment.

Dr. Robert Hasty, the founding dean and chief academic officer of ICOM, has taken another job to help open a medical school in Kansas. ICOM last month launched a national search to replace him. Kevin Wilson, associate dean of clinical affairs, is filling the role in the meantime.

Farnsworth said the search for the next dean was going well. The school is internally vetting interested candidates and plans to pare down the list to the handful of candidates for site visits.

“It was a big loss to have Dr. Hasty leave,” Farnsworth said. “He will be a tough person to replace.”