hree rural, central Appalachia-based osteopathic medical schools—the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM), Lincoln Memorial University DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (LMU-DCOM), and the University of Pikeville–Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (UP-KYCOM)—have officially partnered to form the Central Appalachian Consortium of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (CACCOM). The aim of the CACCOM is to advance the initiative to improve the health of their local medically-underserved communities by collaborating on innovative strategies for addressing how osteopathic physicians are trained.
All three CACCOM member schools are based in rural sections of central Appalachia, with high levels of medically-underserved communities and significant health professional shortages. The group’s first major task will be to develop and implement innovations in the way osteopathic physicians are trained, to improve access to health care in the region.
Pictured left to right is J. Michael Wieting, DO, interim dean at LMU-DCOM; Paul Patton, interim president at University of Pikeville; Kenneth Johnson, DO, executive dean at Heritage College; Boyd Buser, DO, dean of KYCOM.
Fostering a Culture of Collaboration
Leaders from the three colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) participated in the signing of amemorandum of understanding (MOU) on November 9. The new document lays out specific plans and funding strategies for joint research, taking CACCOM from the drawing board phase into working collaboration.
“This new group will help the osteopathic medical community explore the many possibilities for innovation focused on primary care research and medical education,” said AACOM President and CEO Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH.
“The Consortium also has the potential to foster a strong culture of collaboration, empowering colleges of osteopathic medicine to more effectively synergize resources, share research-based innovations, and ultimately improve patient outcomes in the areas of primary care.”
As a first step, Consortium researchers will assess the health care workforce in central Appalachia and examine how each of the COMs trains and prepares future physicians. Researchers will assess the COMs’ medical education strategies in order to determine ways they can best meet the region’s health care needs, and will provide tools and methods that schools can use to create new, customized strategies for physician workforce preparation.
Each school will complete a self-assessment, looking at “levers” under its control—such as admission policies, curriculum, and clinical placements—and how they can be used to impact the health care workforce. The focus will be on actions that the three schools can execute better together than alone.
The Osteopathic Heritage Foundation (OHF) is providing the initial funding for the consortium. As Heritage College Executive Dean Kenneth Johnson, DO, noted, “Creating this consortium was one of the major goals we committed to as part of the OHF’s transformational Vision 2020 award.” The consortium also has the support and engagement of federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; directors of the Office of Rural Health Policy, National Center for Health Workforce Analysis, Office of Planning and Evaluation; multiple Rural Health Research Centers; and the staff of the Appalachian Regional Commission.