Osteopathic physicians and educators recently got what I consider to be excellent news for the profession and for health care in general. According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), new student enrollment at U.S. osteopathic medical colleges increased 5.2 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, bringing total osteopathic medical school enrollment to 24,615, an increase of 6.7 percent over fall 2013.
AACOM’s survey revealed several other interesting facts, including:
- The number of new osteopathic physicians graduating from medical colleges between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, increased by 3.6 percent, to 4,978.
- A total of 6,786 students began their medical education at one of 30 DO-granting medical schools, which educate students at 40 locations in 28 states.
- One-third of graduating DOs indicate they plan to specialize in one of the primary care disciplines of family medicine, general internal medicine, and general pediatrics;
- One-third of graduating DOs say they plan to practice in underserved/health professions shortage areas (both rural and urban).
What is most heartening to me about these new statistics is the number of new health practitioners who plan to practice in underserved areas, and who plan to go into primary care. While the numbers could be better in those categories – and will need to be, for the Affordable Care Act to fully take effect in the years to come, and be of most benefit to millions of underserved Americans – they nevertheless reveal an affinity for primary care that we’ve seen reflected not only in the students and graduates of our own College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, but throughout all of WesternU’s colleges. Statistically, our COMP graduates stack up very well against their counterparts:
- COMP graduated 204 DOs in May, representing 4 percent of new graduates nationwide. Next year, that number will surpass 300 (about 6 percent of the national total), as members of the inaugural class of COMP-Northwest receive their diplomas.
- WesternU welcomed 331 DO students for the 2014-15 academic year, representing nearly 5 percent of the national total. This select group was culled from a pool of more than 8,600 applicants to COMP – 5,558 to the Pomona campus, and 3,095 to COMP-Northwest.
- COMP graduates easily best the national averages for choosing primary care (family practice, internal medicine, general pediatrics) as a career – 43 percent vs. 33 percent. They also are part of a growing percentage of graduating DOs making a commitment to serve in underserved sections of urban and rural communities (32 percent). These are true points of pride for me, as it indicates that WesternU’s graduates are motivated to go where they are needed most, first and foremost.
I also am reminded once again – through our broad, consistent and long-term role in producing new generations of professionals across the health care spectrum – that what we really are engaged in at our University is the people business. The students, faculty, and staff at our institution know plenty about the “discipline of learning,” but it’s the “art of caring” part of what we teach and practice at WesternU that is our finest calling card. They aren’t just patients to us. They’re people – mothers, fathers, siblings, friends – who deserve our utmost compassion and finest skills, in the way that suits their uniqueness best.
In closing, this will be the final President’s Message for 2014, as the campus closes on December 19 and does not reopen until January 5, 2015. I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you the happiest of holidays. I hope you enjoy spending time with friends and loved ones, and that you greet the new year with more of the energy, enthusiasm, and optimism that were so abundant in 2014.
As always, I welcome your feedback on this topic and any others as we discuss WesternU’s Benchmarks of Value, and our plans. Please e-mail me with your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org, and feel free to share this message with your family and friends.
My best to you all,