Osteopathic Medical Colleges, Applicants, and Enrollments All Growing

March 10, 2010

Wendy Fernando
Phone: 301-968-4174

According to the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME), the United States will face a critical physician workforce shortage of approximately 85,000 physicians by 2020. Population growth, an aging physician workforce and the health care demands of an aging U.S. population are three significant factors that will contribute to the shortage. In its 2005 “Physician Workforce Policy Guidelines for the United States, 2000-2020,” COGME recommended that between 2002 and 2015, total U.S. medical school enrollment be increased by 15 percent.

Osteopathic medical education is growing at a rate far surpassing COGME’s clarion call; total enrollment at the nation’s college’s of osteopathic medicine has grown by 58 percent since 2002. Today, osteopathic medical education is one of the fastest-growing components of U.S. medical education.

Over the past decade, the number of colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) across the country has grown from 19 to 26, and the number of osteopathic medical students has increased from fewer than 11,000 to more than 18,000. There are 5,400 available seats for the entering class of 2010; more than 13,000 potential medical school students have applied for those spots. By 2015, colleges of osteopathic medicine will graduate more than 5,300 osteopathic physicians, a number that is expected to continue to grow as more colleges open and existing colleges increase their class sizes.

The William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, will welcome its first class of students in 2010. Last month, the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine, in Blacksburg, Virginia, held a groundbreaking ceremony for its recently established site in Spartanburg, North Carolina, which will open in 2011.  Western University College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, in Pomona, California, will open a new location in Lebanon, Oregon, in 2011. And, the Board of Trustees at Marian University in Indianapolis, Indiana, recently approved the school’s proposal for the development of the state’s first school of osteopathic medicine. Should plans for the new school move forward, it will be Indiana’s second medical school.

The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) recently collected data from its member schools on their continued growth through fall 2015. The 23 private colleges and branch campuses have projected an enrollment increase of 25 percent; the six public COMs have planned for an increase of approximately 17 percent. To view the full growth report, visit here. There are currently more than 55,000 practicing osteopathic physicians (DOs). DOs are licensed to practice the full scope of medicine in all 50 states across the nation, and they can be found practicing in all types of health care settings, including the military, and in all specialties, from pediatrics to geriatrics, and from sports medicine to trauma surgery.

Nevertheless, the majority of osteopathic physicians are primary care practitioners, and the COMs continue to focus on the importance of primary care in their mission statements and educational models. Thus, osteopathic physicians and the colleges that train them have a special role to play in helping to mitigate the nation’s looming primary care workforce shortages.

AACOM was founded in 1898 to support and assist the nation's osteopathic medical schools, and to serve as a unifying voice for osteopathic medical education. AACOM’s mission is to promote excellence in osteopathic medical education, in research and in service, and to foster innovation and quality among osteopathic colleges to improve the health of the American public. For more information, visit