ASU Explores Starting Osteopathic Medical School in Jonesboro

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Tuesday, Jun. 4, 2013 11:24 am  

Tim Hudson, chancellor of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

Arkansas State University Chancellor Tim Hudson announced Tuesday that the university is exploring public-private partnerships to establish an osteopathic medical school in Jonesboro.

According to a news release from the university, ASU System President Charles Welch authorized Hudson to work with local leaders and representatives of osteopathic medical schools on a feasibility study for the project.

"Arkansas State has a long tradition of creating programs that meet state needs," Hudson said.  "An osteopathic medical school could be transformative for our state and our region."

Hudson said ASU is considering partnerships with existing private osteopathic medical schools, following models in states like Alabama, Arizona, Oregon and South Carolina. He said ASU officials have already made site visits as part of preliminary research.

"With this concept, we would not seek state funding," Hudson said. "The school would generate revenue through tuition, research, and external support."

Hudson said he expects to compile a report and recommendation on how to proceed for Welch and the ASU Board of Trustees before the end of the year. 

Jason Penry, ASU's chief of staff, is oversing the study. He said next steps include finding people and institutions to provide counsel on "everything from accreditation and curriculum to operations and facilities."

ASU also said it has been in discussions with Jonesboro city leaders, including Mayor Harold Perrin and Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Mark Young, and executives at St. Bernards Healthcare and NEA Baptist Clinic, both in Jonesboro.

Those leaders said an osteopathic medical school would be a new economic engine for the Delta, attracting medical professionals and increasing the availability of primary care. ASU official said there would also be collaborative research and other educational opportunities between medical professionals and students.

"Adding several hundred professional students to our community, along with the professors and staff needed to operate such a school, would have an enormously positive impact on our community," Young said.

Doctors of osteopathic medicine complete four years of medical school and are licensed by state medical boards to prescribe medication, perform surgery and practice in all recognized medical specialties. Citing the American Osteopathic Association, ASU said D.O.s are one of the fastest growing segments of health care professionals in the U.S.

The State Medical Board said Arkansas has 450 active D.O. license holders, including 265 who are currently practicing. There are 29 accredited osteopathic medical colleges at 37 locations in the country, but ASU says the nearest schools to Jonesboro are about 400 miles away. 

ASU said osteopathic medical schools typically operate from their own specialized facilities, which include lecture halls, labs, libraries and practical training observation and simulation rooms.



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