State’s first osteopathic school to open on the Arkansas State University campus

by George Jared ([email protected]) 457 views 

A death call led Shelby Armstrong to her calling in life. Her father, Dr. Larry Armstrong, wanted her to sit-in while he consulted with a family that was about to lose a loved one. The relative had little or no brain activity. Dr. Armstrong delivered the devastating news.

The Fayetteville native thought she might want to follow in her father’s footsteps. After that moment, there was no doubt. The Baylor graduate is one of 120 students who will begin classes Monday with the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine,, on the Arkansas State University campus.

“That’s when medicine became very real for me,” the 22-year-old Armstrong told Talk Business & Politics. “I knew then what I wanted to do with my life.”

The inaugural class gathered Friday for a traditional white coat ceremony at the Fowler Center on the ASU campus. More than 1,000 people attended. The partnership between the two institutions began to form almost three years to the day that students will enter their first classes, Osteopathic School Dean Barbara Ross-Lee said.

“It’s hard to believe that we’re sitting here three years later with our inaugural class, and classes will begin on Monday,” Ross-Lee said.

The osteopathic medicine program at ASU is the first of its kind in the state, and it’s only the second medical school in Arkansas, according to information released by the school. The school has been approved to accept about 115 students per year, and will be allowed to carry a maximum of 460 students, total, Ross-Lee said. However, a second osteopathic school based in Fort Smith is complete and will open its first class in fall 2017. Work began in February 2015 on the $32.4 million facility located in the Chaffee Crossing area. The school will be housed in a three story, 102,000-square-foot building, and a fully operational osteopathic college is expected to serve about 600 students.

It is NYIT’s second osteopathic school, according to information released by the school. The first is based in Old Westbury, New York. NYIT has a total of seven schools and colleges, and it has a student base of about 12,000 from sites around the world.

Classes will be held in Wilson Hall, which has undergone a massive renovation, ASU Communications Director Jeff Hankins said. Being able to keep local doctors home for school is critical for the community, and it adds a lot of value to the ASU system, he said.

Hallie Frederick, 22, of Jonesboro, began her ASU career four years ago and is expected to have to move to receive her medical degree. When rumors began to circulate that ASU might get a medical school she was ecstatic, she said. Once the announcement was made choosing to stay home was easy, she said.

There’s only one thing that has scared Frederick to this point.

“The load of information we’ve been given … when classes start next week we’ve got a lot to do. It’s a little overwhelming right now,” she said.

The college got its official approval in December to begin its program. About 70 of the students are from Arkansas, while the rest are from a number of states across the country. This is the first class in the program’s history, and they will be heavily scrutinized, Ross-Lee said. One major challenge was getting local clinics and hospitals organized so that students could perform work in real-life venues, Ross-Lee said. Many were willing partners, but organizing such a massive effort was time consuming.

Osteopathic medicine is one of the fastest growing medical disciplines in the United States. It is practiced by osteopathic physicians known as DOs. These physicians have the same accreditations and have to meet the same licensing requirements as traditional medical doctors. The difference is that DOs use hand techniques to diagnose illness, injury, and to communicate caring to their patients.

Becoming a DO was a natural choice for 22-year-old Jarmarcus Brider, of Jonesboro. The recent ASU graduate knew he wanted to pursue a medical degree and staying in-state and in his hometown were a perfect fit.

“I want an opportunity to give back and provide quality healthcare in my community,” he said.

Armstrong, Frederick, and Brider don’t know what branch of medicine they will practice, yet. The trio, along with their other classmates, received a final word of gratitude from Ross-Lee before the ceremony ended.

“We are proud … we expect a lot out of you,” Ross-Lee said. “See you on Monday.”