IUP College of Osteopathic Medicine Moving Forward

Updated on June 17, 2024

America’s healthcare system prioritizes sickness over wellness and prevention. According to the Commonwealth Fund, despite spending the highest percentage of GDP on healthcare, the US ranks last among 11 of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Their findings show that we continue to lack access, quality, efficiency, and equity. To understand better, we can look at COVID statistics in Japan where their citizens suffered exponentially less and had a much lower death rate per capita than in America.  

The focus on sickness rather than wellness and prevention in the United States also explains why less than 20 percent of all physicians in our country are Primary Care physicians, while the majority of medical schools orient their programs toward specialties.

Some may say, “Follow the money,” which explains a system that is inundated with illness caused by successful lobbies in the fast and junk food, alcohol, and tobacco industries. These companies prioritize profits and refer to the physical destruction caused to our population in the form of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer as collateral damage.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projected a continuing shortage of primary care physicians across the United States through 2033 with rural areas being particularly affected. A Graham Center report found that as specialist training continues to grow, the number of family practice physicians dropped by 31percent.

The perfect storm of our aging population, more physicians heading toward retirement age, and an increased demand for healthcare will all contribute to this gap. The National Center for Healthwork Analysis showed that in 2021 only 17.5 percent of our physicians were classified as Primary Care and that 17,400 more primary care doctors are needed.

The OECD iLibrary notes that when the European Union faced a similar lack of primary care physicians, countries like France dedicated at least 40 percent of all new postgraduate training places to general medicine. Even with this effort, attracting enough candidates to fill these positions has been challenging.

What’s one answer? In 2020, after initial discussions with key external stakeholders followed by a pre-feasibility study in 2022, and with support of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Council of Trustees, IUP moved forward to explore the possibility of a College of Osteopathic Medicine at IUP.

Osteopathic medical schools have a long tradition in rural communities, and physicians who are trained in osteopathic medicine are more likely to select family medicine as a specialty than those trained in allopathic medicine (46 percent vs 11 percent) and to practice in rural areas (18.1 percent vs 11.5 percent). The Proposed IUPCOM is centered around an osteopathic-focused foundation in accreditation—tailored to meet the needs of Indiana and Pennsylvania’s rural communities—to create a flagship model for rural health training throughout the country.

What does this mean for the region? IUP’s College of Osteopathic Medicine will be uniquely positioned to provide Family Practice physicians trained specifically to provide care in Rural Health areas with significant emphasis on wellness and prevention. The uniqueness of this training will include techniques in both integrative medicine and genomics. Graduates serving underserved, especially rural communities, are projected to contribute to healthcare cost savings in excess of $136.8 million annually.

Creating a College of Osteopathic Medicine is no small undertaking. As the only public university-based College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pennsylvania located in a rural community, IUP’s proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine could offer lower attendance costs and reduced student loan burdens.

As part of the State System of Universities, Pennsylvania’s retention of these primary care physicians will also be enhanced. Besides creating over 400 jobs, the IUP College of Osteopathic Medicine will bring nearly an additional $70M into the local economies.

Founding Dean, Dr. Miko Rose and President Michael Driscoll, are committed to finding the $103M in funds necessary to start the project and identify the individuals and organizations that will help underwrite the cost of tuition for the medical students.  Dean Rose and IUP have answered the call for action.

Achieving this vision, however, requires the support of the health systems, foundations, legislatures, leaders, and engaged citizens of this region and State. We stand on the precipice of a rural healthcare crisis, and this initiative offers one potential local solution

F. Nicholas (Nick) Jacobs, FACHE is a member of the executive committee of the Board of Regents for Southern California University of the Health Sciences. He has served as an officer of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine, was a founding officer of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, and served on the boards of Planetree International and the Integrative Health Policy Consortium.

Mr. Jacobs has consulted for Integrative Medical Centers at the Atlantic Health System, Hackensack University Medical Center, Parkview Health System, Cedars Sinai, the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care, and Highlands Hospital in Pennsylvania.

He has served as President of Windber Medical Center and in senior leadership roles for Mercy Medical Center and the Conemaugh Health System. He was President and co-founder of the Windber Research Institute, a genetic research institute and bio-repository. He also founded the Clinical and Translational Genome Research Institute, a Pharmacogenomics research institute now affiliated with Southern California University.

Nick is a consultant for the United States Department of Defense Clinical Breast Care Project and was responsible for creating the Conemaugh Health Foundation, Mercy Healthcare Foundation, and the Laurel Highlands Educational Foundation.

He holds Masters Degrees in Education from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and in Public Management-Health Systems Management from Carnegie Mellon University, has completed a certification in Health Systems Management from Harvard University, and is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. He has written two books and is a regular contributor to several publications.

Finally, Nick has spoken at conferences for the Highmark, Cigna, the American Hospital Association, American College of Healthcare Executives, National Cancer Institute, Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, World Health Organization, World Congress on Cardiology, and the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy

A former professional trumpet player and teacher, Nick is the father of two children, has six grandchildren, and lives in Windber and Pittsburgh, PA.