Study: Campus, area 'ideal' for medical school

By Bethany Gallimore
On February 6, 2014

Development consulting firm Tripp Umbach has identified A-State as an ideal host institution for a proposed school of osteopathic medicine.

In a press conference Tuesday, Paul Umbach, president and founder of the Tripp Umbach firm, said A-State is in a very strong position to develop a medical program to serve the Delta and Northeast region of Arkansas.

“The university already has a long history of doing medical, health science and nursing education,” Umbach said. “It’s a school that has great relationships with its hospitals and physicians and it is in a community that is dynamic and growing and has a lot of support.”

The osteopathic school would create a Bachelor of Science and graduate degree program for primary care physicians. Osteopathy places an emphasis on manipulative medicine techniques for reducing pain, restoring joint mobility and enhancing the body’s natural functions.

The Tripp Umbach feasibility study predicted a 25 percent decline in the number of osteopathic physicians practicing in Arkansas over the next five years, creating a wide open field for new osteopathic graduates.

“We want students who are from this area to have access to medical education. Places in medical education are hard to find in Arkansas,” Chancellor Tim Hudson said.

Successful completion of the undergraduate osteopathy program would place students on the fast track to entering the associated A-State graduate medical school.

The results of having a local medical school for graduating high school students would be a game changer for the region, said Jason Penry, vice chancellor for university advancement and project leader for the development of the osteopathic medical school.

“What I’m most excited about is it’s going to help students who graduate high school from Jonesboro, Nettleton, Pocahontas or Jacksonville to directly enter the BSDO program, and if they meet certain requirements as an undergrad they’re already admitted to becoming a physician,” Penry said.

The Tripp Umbach study also indicated that a significant economic impact on the region would result from the establishment of the osteopathic school.

“This study that we’ve done says that there is going to be a two-year, $70 million impact,” Penry said.

The establishment of the program would also create 317 jobs and add $2 million in tax revenue to the region.

The Tripp Umbach study estimated the regional economic impact will eventually grow to $88 million annually.

The additional healthcare improvements resulting from the program establishment would have long-lasting benefits for the entire Delta region, according to Penry.

“The Delta region has some of the worst health outcomes in the entire country,” Penry said. “Our charter is to serve the state, and in serving the state we think that a degree program for a medical school to help with rural care and primary care (is part of that charter).”

The goal of the program is to retain approximately 60 percent of graduates to practice in the Northeast Arkansas region.

“We’re trying to market to students whose families live here in the Delta region, in Jonesboro area, in Northeast Arkansas,” Penry said. “We think they’re more apt to stay if they do their training (locally).”

In addition to passing graduate school, licensed medical practitioners are required to complete between 3-7 years of residential training in established hospitals or medical facilities.

“In medical education, most doctors get their training in a hospital or in a community setting, not in a classroom,” Umbach said.

The Tripp Umbach study found that there are sufficient medical institutions in the A-State area to support residence training for graduating classes of up to 120 medical students each year.

The additional training in Jonesboro-area hospitals would further integrate graduates into the region and promote long-lasting relationships with the community.

“This community has the opportunity to create a very high quality program,” Umbach said.

Implementing an associated medical program would add a level of previously unforeseen prestige to A-State.

“This is truly transformative for us,” Hudson said. “We’re increasingly known as a place where people want to be, as a destination. Any time you add an academic program of the caliber of a medical school it can only help your reputation.”

Hudson specified that the new school would not increase student tuition. “It will have absolutely no impact,” Hudson said. “It will be like a graduate school that will have its own structure and its own tuition.”

The osteopathic medical program could be opening its doors as soon as fall 2016.

The university has already established ties to existing osteopathic schools around the country.

In the coming weeks university leadership will continue to negotiate a potential partnership with an existing osteopathic school, Hudson said. The partnership will help create an ideal model for the school and bring in additional financial resources.

“We’ve had a lot of informal conversations, we’ve had a lot of suitors and we’ve had a lot of people wanting us to be interested in them,” Hudson said. “From there we’ll move through the accreditation process unless we hit some other obstacle that we’re not familiar with at this point.”


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