How ISU’s new medical school will benefit Pocatello

An rendering of the new Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine.
An rendering of the new Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Idaho State University and the freestanding, privately funded, separately licensed and independently operated Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM) formed a partnership in 2016 that officials say every Idahoan will look at with pride.

After years of speculation, the partnership provides access to quality health care education, which is a key component to a livable community.

The relationship inspires homeowners to spend locally attracts new residents and lures companies seeking a skilled workforce, according to ISU President Arthur Vailas.

“ICOM is a medical school and it’s an Idaho medical school that happens to have a relationship with five other states around Idaho,” Vailas said. “It gives students in the state of Idaho the opportunity to apply for an Idaho-based medical program that will have about 600 seats for students in Idaho, which is wonderful.”

Though the school is located in Meridian, officials believe ICOM will directly and inversely affect the entire state of Idaho, and specifically the eastern cities, in terms of economic and financial development.

Dr. Robert Hasty, ICOM’s founding dean and chief academic officer, formerly worked at Campbell University, a 129-year-old faith-based university in Buies Creek, North Carolina.

“I saw firsthand how a new medical school can be a game changer for a community,” he said. “In addition to all of the positive opportunities, economic advantages and health benefits, a new medical school invigorates a community in a way that only something being done for a great and noble cause can do. ICOM is going to be an incredible medical school that every Idahoan will be proud of.”

According the Vailas, ICOM will provide opportunities for financial aid and scholarships for Idaho students, which for him is a big benefit to ISU and Pocatello.

Furthermore, the quality of ISU’s curriculum as a whole and the caliper of students that would enroll at ICOM will greatly improve.

“We have a chance to evaluate our curriculum and a chance to share ideas regarding medical education delivery right here in our backyard,” he said. “In Pocatello, we have many opportunities for the sciences to get involved in a number of things.”

Students work in the cadaver lab in the L.S. and Aline W. Skaggs Treasure Valley Anatomy and Physiology Laboratories September 23, 2015.
Students work in the cadaver lab in the L.S. and Aline W. Skaggs Treasure Valley Anatomy and Physiology Laboratories September 23, 2015.

In addition to curriculum development and student recruitment, the ISU and ICOM partnership offers advanced research capabilities previously not possible in Idaho.

Ideally, this research will help Idaho rise from 49th among the 50 states in active physicians per capita, 46th in primary care physicians per capita, 49th in female physicians per capita, and 48th in graduate medical education per capita.

“We have the opportunity for medical research throughout the state, especially in eastern Idaho because their focus is in primary care, and certainly their intention is to improve health care access in rural Idaho,” Vailas said.

What lacks in a lot of medical education is interprofessionalism, according to Vailas. That will not be the case at ICOM.

“No longer are you just focusing on the simple doctors but you’re now including other health profession programs to take advantage of an integrated model of instruction in healthcare delivery with the other healthcare professions,” Vailas said. “And that is good and I think ISU with ICOM has a wonderful opportunity to become a pioneer in interprofessional medical treatment and education.”

Moreover, ICOM would like to have a clinical site for students in the Pocatello area. If successful, ICOM will send a cohort of third- and fourth-year medical students to the Pocatello area for their last two years of medical school. The Gate City area would identify a regional dean and medical student coordinator based in Southeast Idaho. All of these factors would have a positive economic impact on Pocatello.

According to Hasty, ICOM has commissioned an external consultant, Tripp Umbach, and they have performed an economic impact analysis for ICOM.

“Once ICOM is in full operation, they expect over $50 million annually in direct and indirect impact,” Hasty said. “Over the first 10 years of full operation, that is over a half billion dollars. Some of this economic impact will be in the form of revenue for ISU. Also, we feel confident that a clinical site in the Pocatello area would positively affect the economy of eastern Idaho.”

Dr. Robert Hasty
Dr. Robert Hasty

The synergetic partnership between ISU and ICOM is the first of its kind in Idaho.

“I predict that this partnership will be beneficial to both ICOM and ISU in our efforts to enroll promising students in health education,” Hasty said.

The land lease unanimously approved by the State Board of Education will generate $190,000 of new revenue to ISU and will increase annually, Hasty added.

“We are in planning phase on several other projects that are also likely to increase revenue to ISU,” Hasty said. “I think that Pocatello’s success and growth is closely tied to the success of ISU. The additional revenue will be good for ISU and will ultimately have a positive effect on the economics and growth of Pocatello.”

Post Author: David Ashby

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