The first class at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine on the Arkansas State University Jonesboro campus is set to begin medical clerkships or rotations this fall, NYITCOM Dean Dr. Shane Speights told Talk Business & Politics.
It will be the first time in Arkansas that DO students will work in medical facilities statewide. NYITCOM was the first DO school in Arkansas when it opened its doors in August 2016, according to Speights.
“It’s a big step for us … these are great students, and they’re going to be great physicians,” Speights said. “That’s when its going to become real for us. That’s when it’s going to get real for our students.”
The osteopathic medicine program at ASU was the first of its kind in the state, and when it opened it was only the second medical school in Arkansas. The school has been approved to accept about 115 students per year, and will be allowed to carry a maximum of 460 students, total. A second osteopathic school based in Fort Smith welcomed its first class in fall 2017.
These clerkships will be different than rotations by students at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Each year UAMS has about 170 students that start clerkships, but those students typically stay in the Little Rock area, Speights said. Dr. Richard Wheeler, UAMS dean for the medical college academic, told Talk Business & Politics the majority of third year students do their rotations in Little Rock because of the number of hospitals in the area. There many students who do rotations outside Little Rock, but he didn’t have an exact number per year. NYITCOM is independent and can partner with health institutions statewide, Speights said, allowing students to have a broad range of experiences, including working in rural communities.
Training and retaining doctors is vital to the region, with about 60% of all doctors stay within 100 miles from where they perform their residency, Speights said. Jonesboro has two residencies and it will increase to four by 2020, he said. St. Bernards will have two and NEA Memorial Baptist Hospital will have two. The school also is involved in creating a rural residency involving Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Walnut Ridge, Five Rivers Medical Center in Pocahontas and other rural hospitals in the area.
The Jonesboro campus is NYIT’s second osteopathic school. The first is based in Old Westbury, N.Y. NYIT has seven schools and colleges, and a student base of about 12,000 from sites around the world. Classes are held in Wilson Hall on the ASU campus, which has underwent a massive renovation before classes began.
Growth in the future will be slow at best, Speights said. The school can have as many as 120 students per year, and the wait list to get into the school is lengthy. The school could create an entire second class each year just based on the wait list, he said. NYITCOM has a “small community feel” where students and teachers know each other on a first name basis, and there’s a lot of social and educational value in that, he added.
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 accreditation and meet the same licensing requirements as traditional medical doctors.
Speights believes the holistic approaches taught at DO schools are uniquely positioned to tackle healthcare issues in the years to come. New physicians need to remain humble and remember one thing, Speights said.
“It’s your job as a physician to navigate your patients … You’re there to help them regain their health or maintain their health.”