Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH
Osteopathic Medicine: A Growing Profession
As the colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) celebrate the conclusion of this academic year with graduations and commencement ceremonies (see related article), I am filled with pride at the ongoing growth of osteopathic medical education, and, thus, the number of new DOs entering the workforce each year. This year, nearly 4,200 medical students graduated from one of the nation’s 26 COMs, compared with just 2,536 graduates a decade ago.
Part of this growth is attributable to increasing class sizes of existing schools. But a large portion of the growth stems from the increasing number of colleges and campuses that have been founded in the last ten years. This year, A.T. Still University – School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona, Lincoln Memorial University DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine – New York each graduated their inaugural class of osteopathic medical students. Congratulations to the graduates of these new schools, and to all the graduates of the Class of 2011!
Each and every new osteopathic physician will be needed to help meet our nation’s increasing health care demands. For example, a variety of reports predict primary care physician deficits that will range from 20,000 to 46,000 by 2020-2025. With large numbers of new osteopathic physicians continuing to pursue primary care careers, I am hopeful that our profession can help the nation avert a primary care crisis. Of course, more specialists will be needed as well, and regardless of what specialty they pursue, I am convinced that osteopathic physicians will make a difference in mitigating physician shortages and improving our health care system.
This fall the 26 colleges of osteopathic medicine, four branch campuses, and four remote teaching sites will offer instruction to some 5,716 new medical students. More than 20 percent of all new U.S. medical students are now studying at osteopathic medical schools. And, with applications for the 2012 academic year again arriving in record numbers and several additional new schools in development, projections for rapid growth continue.
We will take care during this period of expansion to keep quality and innovation at the heart of our educational model. Much of what our nation is demanding from its health care system is embodied in osteopathic medicine—a strong foundation in primary care, patient-centered principles aimed at maintaining good health, and close physician-patient relationships that make patients partners in their health and well-being. Thus, I am proud of the traditions and innovation that characterize osteopathic medical education, particularly during this time of growth. AACOM is working with its member colleges to place osteopathic medical education at the forefront of efforts to address the nation’s health care needs.