Meridian Press - Idaho State University celebrates 10 years at Meridian campus

MERIDIAN — Idaho State University-Meridian has changed the game for health care education in Idaho, ISU President Kevin Satterlee said Tuesday at the campus’ 10-year anniversary party.

The Meridian branch of ISU trains over 900 students in health science fields. Enrollment has doubled since its first year, and the number of programs has grown from 24 to 35. The campus more recently has added anatomy and nursing skills labs, faculty offices and research space.

Medical education is increasingly important as Idaho’s population grows and the baby boomer generation ages, putting a strain on available health care resources.

“This facility represents higher education in Idaho stepping up and listening to the needs of our employers,” Satterlee said.

ISU-Meridian shares a campus with the West Ada School District and the new Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, a private medical school.

Over the last couple years, the university has worked to bring new programs to the Treasure Valley. Many of those programs will help fill gaps in Idaho’s workforce and primary care areas, said Rex Force, vice president of health sciences for ISU-Meridian.

Next fall, ISU plans to expand its occupational therapist program to its Meridian campus, growing the total number of students from 18 to 40, Force said. In fall 2020, ISU-Meridian plans to begin a rehabilitation counseling program with a class of 12 or so students — eventually growing to 24 students split between the Meridian and Pocatello campuses, Force said. Those students will work with clients who need special counseling to adapt to a new lifestyle after an accident.

“As the population ages … we have tremendous needs for things like rehabilitation,” Force said.

This fall, ISU-Meridian opened a new master’s program in clinical psychopharmacology with three students. The two-year program could aid in the state’s growing mental health issues by combining counseling and talk therapy with pharmaceuticals. Last year, ISU also began offering its Doctor of Physical Therapy program in Meridian.

By bringing these programs to Meridian, ISU is able to attract more health care practitioners to the Treasure Valley, said Patricia Marincic, associate vice president for health science for ISU-Meridian.

“What we know is where people train … is where they tend to come back and practice,” Marincic said.

Providing all of ISU-Meridian’s 35 programs on one campus allows students to cross disciplines and work together, Saterlee said in his address Tuesday.

ISU-Meridian was one of the key reasons Idaho’s first medical school, the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, chose to open in Meridian, said Stephanie Dillon, spokeswoman for ICOM.

Since opening last fall with roughly 160 students, ICOM students and about 400 of ISU’s students have worked alongside each other a handful of times each semester. The program has given the student-doctors and ISU students an opportunity to work in teams, preparing them for their future jobs where they will be working alongside a variety of health care providers.

As part of the 10-year anniversary celebration, ISU-Meridian announced a new $100,000 endowment in honor of Dr. Bessie Katsilometes, who was the first ISU-Meridian campus administrator, now retired, and who “was a visionary and really coordinated our trajectory for the health sciences in the Treasure Valley,” Satterlee said.

As of Tuesday, ISU had raised roughly half the money needed for the endowment. The endowment will be used to provide new equipment to the university’s bioskills labs.

“We are here for our students,” Marincic said. “We are committed to preparing competent, compassionate providers to serve the Treasure Valley and all of Idaho. … The ultimate benefactors will be the patients our students serve over their professional career. We are working to build a better Idaho.”