Saturday, December 1, 2007

New DO School opening in Washington???

Here is an interesting article...

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) - Yakima businessman Al DeAtley initially thought the idea of building an osteopathic medical school here was absurd.

"When they first brought it to me, I thought it was a pipe dream," DeAtley said. He had been approached by people who wanted to launch the school as part of the new Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences.

But the retired millionaire and philanthropist, who made his fortune building roads, is a believer now. It helped that his wife was a nurse at the old Yakima Valley Osteopathic Hospital in the 1950s, and their children's doctors were osteopathic physicians, not the more common allopathic physicians who have M.D. after their name.

Ultimately, though, DeAtley said he was persuaded to back the effort because the founding doctors were able to attract a significant amount of money for the venture from outside Yakima. They convinced an out-of-state financier, who doesn't want to be identified, to invest $13 million in a for-profit holding company for initial construction. The school is set to receive its inaugural class of 70 in August.

DeAtley, who has held several fundraisers for the school at his Scenic Drive home, thinks Pacific Northwest University will transform Yakima's identity and greatly boost its economy.

"I think it will make us more sophisticated, which should help recruit companies to expand here," DeAtley said. "It's going to bring some high-wage faculty. I think it means Yakima is at the tipping point."

Pacific Northwest already is delivering an economic and intellectual punch. It has a $3 million-a-year operating budget and 17 employees. Local contractors are constructing the first two campus buildings. Eventually, if all goes according to the board's ambitious plan, the 42-acre campus will be home to as many as 10 other training programs for allied health professions, from pharmacy to physical therapy. When fully built, classrooms and student housing will cover 500,000 square feet.

So far, eight osteopathic and two allopathic physicians have been recruited from other parts of the country to work as instructors and practice medicine locally. By the fall, 25 professional staff and faculty members are expected to be on board. Officials said most of the faculty has been hired and is expected to start arriving in February and March.

Dr. Linda Welch was persuaded to leave private practice in San Antonio to become director of faculty development. She had taught medicine earlier in her career.

"The opportunity to get back into teaching combined with the fact that this is a brand-new university really appealed to me," said Welch, who has purchased a home.

Welch cited another plus - the nearby mountains and the fresh fruit and produce.

"My first night here I spent in a B&B and woke up in the middle of a cherry orchard," she marveled. "It was beautiful."

According to Fred Tinning, Pacific Northwest's outgoing interim president, who has had a hand in starting five other osteopathic medical schools, many of these schools have started in rural areas like the Yakima Valley because part of their mission is to train primary-care physicians for underserved regions.

The state Department of Health says 38 of 39 Washington counties are short of family and primary care physicians. But Tinning said the shortage is most acute in the agricultural regions of Eastern Washington. Only one medical school serves the entire state - the University of Washington, an allopathic college. The nearest osteopathic medical schools are in Colorado and California.

Carlos Olivares, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, said he currently needs at least 20 physicians to meet demand at his organization's nine clinics across the state and in Oregon. That's why, he said, the board of the Farm Workers Clinic gave a substantial loan to the university.

"We have to prepare for the future, and part of that is to grow our own people who want to be physicians," Olivares said.

Boosting the local economy

While allopathic medical schools in the United States produce far more graduates, osteopathic medical education is growing rapidly. Three new colleges, including Pacific Northwest, are opening in the 2007-08 academic year. More than 20 colleges surveyed two years ago by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine projected a 25 percent increase in first-year enrollment over the five-year period between 2007 and 2012.

Osteopathic physicians, who have D.O. after their name, meaning doctor of osteopathy, receive much the same kind of medical education and medical board certification as M.D.s, and these days practice alongside M.D.s in hospitals and clinics. They can prescribe drugs, for example, and receive post-doctoral training to practice surgery and other specialties.

But while the differences between the two types of medical educations have blurred, only osteopathic physicians are trained in the signature therapy - manipulation - that made it a breakaway profession more than 130 years ago. OMT is the use of the hands to diagnose, treat and prevent illness or injury. Manipulative techniques include moving muscles and joints with stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.

Manipulation arose from osteopathic medicine's holistic, or "whole-person," view of the body, namely that nerves, muscles, bones and organs are inter-related.

Dr. Stephen Shannon, president of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, said osteopathic schools can respond more quickly to the demand for primary-care physicians than allopathic schools because they require less infrastructure, such as a large research institution.

"We're just more agile," Shannon said.

Allopathic educators agree, to a point.

"It's less expensive because they don't develop a research enterprise," said M. Brownell Anderson, senior associate vice president of the Division of Medical Education at the Association of American Medical Colleges. "But I would submit there are more new allopathic schools in the pipeline. We have 13 or 14 in various stages of development."

Rural osteopathic schools become important economic players in their local communities. The new dean of Pacific Northwest University, Dr. William Betz, said he saw that happen in Pikeville, Ky., when he was the associate dean of the Pikeville College of Osteopathic Medicine. That school, located in the heart of Appalachia, opened 10 years ago.

Although Pikeville has a 261-bed hospital, a shortage of both primary-care physicians and specialists forced many residents to drive to cities two or three hours away for medical care.

"Our health care dollars were leaking out to those areas," said Terry Spears, vice president of advancement at Pikeville College.

In the last decade, a medical infrastructure has developed in Pikeville that includes new physicians and specialists, and $70 million worth of expansion at the hospital, including services such as open-heart surgery and neurosurgery.

The University of Kentucky Center for Rural Health found in a recent study that each new physician in a rural community in Appalachia creates a $2 million annual economic impact.

Last year, Pacific Northwest University officials hired Cascade Planning Group of Camas, Wash., to estimate the economic and fiscal benefits to the community of a new osteopathic school in Yakima. Using conservative projections of the spinoff benefits of dollars spent and jobs created, economist Paul Dennis estimated an economic benefit to Yakima County from first-phase construction of $23 million.

Dennis said the county will see the biggest long-term benefit from the arrival of faculty and students.

"That's probably one of the best impacts that comes out of it because these people are going to be spending money that's new to the economy," he said in an interview.

At projected full enrollment of 370 students in 2011, 44 staff and faculty members will generate an annual payroll of up to $6 million. By the time the school opens next summer, employees will have spent $13.6 million on housing in the Yakima area and close to $1 million on taxable retail goods and services, according to Cascade.

Fundraising momentum

One key player in getting Pacific Northwest University this far has been Tinning, 72, who has been interim president of Pacific Northwest for more than a year. He said there's no single blueprint for success, but the effort has to start with the founding trustees writing their own checks before they approach the local business elite.

"You get to know people and you tell them your story," Tinning said. "People are a little hesitant at the beginning. They want to see progress. At the beginning, we weren't getting big checks."

The first significant donors were relatives of Dr. Lloyd Butler, the new university's board chairman. Butler, a now-retired family doctor in Sunnyside, began meeting in 2004 with other local osteopathic physicians about creating a health sciences university.

In June 2005, Butler's brother-in-law, Robert Haney, and Haney's wife, Charlotte, who are now retired and spend part of the year in Yakima, stepped up with a $1 million gift. That set the stage for the Temple family - owners of Columbia Basin railroad - to donate 19.6 acres of land in Terrace Heights valued at $7.2 million.

With $5.6 million it had in the bank, the nonprofit university bought another 23 acres. The university sold the combined 42.6 acres to Yakima Medical School Holdings for $12.9 million.

Yakima Medical School Holdings, which is leasing the land back to the university, is a for-profit company created by the unidentified out-of-state businessman who bought the land. New president Dr. Stan Flemming, who recently was named to succeed Tinning, said the deal was structured this way to free up cash so the university could start building and recruiting students and faculty. The university reserved the option to buy the lease.

Tinning said the groundbreaking ceremony in May, which drew 600 people, helped attract additional donors. The university recently honored Helen Jewett, a leading Yakima philanthropist, for making a significant contribution, although it's not publicizing the amount. Pat and Marvin Sundquist also will be recognized for their contribution.

Butler said most contributors want to remain anonymous to protect their privacy.

The fundraising effort hasn't all gone smoothly. The university had a sizable commitment lined up from a large corporation in Alaska but it was withdrawn. Officials say they don't know if that was related to the problematic credentials of Dr. Greg Mick, the founding chairman of the board. Mick resigned in October 2006 after officials learned he had surrendered his Alabama medical license. The state had filed charges against him related to patient complaints.

Butler said the trustees were determined not to let the episode with Mick hurt the new school. A major turning point, he said, came last March. After months of due diligence, the board of Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital voted unanimously to donate $1 million to the university. The hospital would benefit from having more primary care doctors in the community.

The university has more than 30 grant applications or letters of inquiry out to corporations such as Wal-Mart. It's also seeking funding from tribal foundations in the Northwest, including the Yakama Nation.

Competing with UW

Fundraising will continue to be a big job for new president Flemming. He said the school is on target to raise $20 million to finish and equip the 60,000-square-foot, two-story college and hire faculty and staff for the August opening.

The second phase of the development, to begin in 2012, will cost an estimated $100 million. 2012 is when the first class is set to graduate.

As far as recruiting quality faculty and staff, Flemming said that's been easier than expected. Most of the 25 positions are already filled. Flemming is also steering the university through the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation process. Last April, the school received pre-accreditation approval. After a site visit in July, provisional accreditation was granted. Full accreditation doesn't occur until the first class graduates.

Flemming said his other major priority is to attract top students - which he defines as only those who can survive a multi-layer screening process that begins with grades and medical admissions aptitude tests and ends with a personal interview.

So far, more than 1,200 students have applied for the 70 seats.

"There are only a certain number of seats totally, so when you're looking at the candidates, they are already running in the top 3 to 5 percent of their class," he said. "Then you narrow that pool down even further."

At UW, where 3,500 students apply for fewer than 200 positions, Dr. John Coombs, vice dean of rural health and graduate medical education, has a similar assessment.

"There are far more people interested in becoming physicians than (there are) slots," he said. All UW resident training programs accept osteopathic physicians, he said.

Flemming rejects the idea that his new school can't compete with the University of Washington medical school for the best students - even though the state school charges $17,400 a year tuition compared with $30,000 at his school.

"I have no concerns about losing the best students to UW," he said.

(Associated Press)


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