Students will serve America’s most vulnerable populations
MESA, Ariz. (Sept. 18, 2006 ) – The American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation has awarded provisional accreditation to A.T. Still University’s new college of osteopathic medicine in Mesa, Ariz. This represents the highest accreditation possible at this phase of development. The school’s unique curriculum will emphasize delivering whole person, compassionate care and cutting-edge science and technology. In addition, students will spend three of their four years in community health centers located in underserved communities.
The inaugural class of 100 students will enter the school in July 2007. The new medical school will operate in a 100,000-square-foot building on the 50-acre campus of A.T. Still University in Mesa, which is the anchor of the Arizona Health & Technology Park, a 132-acre, half-billion dollar education, healthcare, and technology park owned by the University and Vanguard Health Systems. The master plan for the new park includes hospitals, long-term and acute care facilities, student and senior housing, professional offices, a YMCA, and product development research facilities.
“By starting a school without old presumptions, we have an opportunity to use new medical research findings and technologies, as well as the latest cognitive principles,” says James J. McGovern, Ph.D., president of A.T. Still University.
“In the U.S., our current medical system is perceived as expensive, impersonal, and inefficient,” McGovern explains. “To solve these problems, we need to challenge the status quo, beginning with the way doctors are trained. We need to educate our new doctors to treat the whole person in mind, body, and spirit and to practice cost-effectively with integrity, compassion, and the latest technology. We also need to encourage them to be lifelong learners because the basis of knowledge is increasing every year.”
The newly named dean of the medical school, Douglas L. Wood, D.O., Ph.D., is the former president of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. He explains that the learning environment at the yet unnamed medical school will highlight a humanistic approach to education and healthcare. “Small study groups and problem solving will receive greater emphasis than lectures. Students will be educated in community health centers with wonderfully high ratios of physicians to students.”
Meeting a Growing Need
The new medical school will help meet a growing need for more physicians. Studies have estimated there will be a national shortage of as many as 200,000 physicians by 2020. This is due to several factors such as the growing number of people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, the need for older people to see doctors more often, and the increasing number of physicians, especially women, taking early retirement.
The new school’s geographic location is also significant. Arizona has one of the fastest growing populations in the country and ranks near last in terms of medical school slots per capita. No one knows this better than Craig M. Phelps, D.O., FAOASM, who serves as provost of A. T. Still University’s Arizona School of Health Sciences and Arizona School of Dentistry, as well as primary care team physician to college and professional teams including the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.
According to Dr. Phelps, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) helped provide the impetus for this new college. “Working with the Centers, we realized the critical shortage of doctors in underserved urban and rural areas. This will become even more critical as the physician shortage increases. The new medical school will partner with NACHC by utilizing Community Health Center sites across the nation as rotation destinations for medical students.” Dr. Phelps believes many of A.T. Still University’s students will return to communities of need and play a leading role in helping underserved individuals and neighborhoods.
“Medicine needs to reintroduce the concept of compassion,” says Phelps. “We have new knowledge and new technology, but unless today’s medical students understand the importance of compassion and the physician-patient relationship, America’s healthcare system will never meet patients’ real needs.”