Plans for Osteopathic School on A-State Campus Rejected, Officials Will Try Again

An accreditation commission has rejected an application by the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine to open an additional location on the Arkansas State University campus in Jonesboro. But organizers say they will apply again early next year.

The Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation denied NYIT-COM’s application for an additional location in September.

But Jeff Hankins, vice president for strategic communications and economic development for the Arkansas State University System, said A-State remains confident that NYIT-COM's additional site on its campus will be approved. 

Hankins said the university is still targeting a fall 2016 opening, and added that Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee of NYIT will establish an office on the Jonesboro campus in January "to continue ongoing planning."

"As is common with these types of applications, our initial petition resulted in a denial by [COCA] with a clear description of the additional information they require," Hankins said in a statement to Arkansas Business. "We look forward to our next presentation to the COCA on April 18 when we will provide this information."

COCA is part of the American Osteopathic Association, which told Arkansas Business on Monday that it is against its policy to comment on individual applications, whether approved or denied.

Sheridan Chaney, AOA's director of media relations, said first-time denials "certainly" occur, but said she couldn’t characterize how common they are.

More: Read what items COCA reviews for a substantive change request.

According to AOA’s annual House of Delegates report, between June 1, 2012, and May 31, 2013, COCA reviewed two requests for substantive changes for additional locations: One was deferred and later approved, while the other received immediate approval.

From June 1, 2011, through May 31, 2012, the commission denied one substantive change request for additional location, and approved one request.

The denied request, reviewed in April 2012, was made by Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York, which requested an additional location in Middletown, New York. Its next request for the additional location was deferred in December 2012, and approved in May 2013.

The ASU-NYIT partnership has already received approval from the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which granted a certification to NYIT on July 25 for an osteopathic medical school site on the Jonesboro campus. 

But obtaining certification for three degrees — doctor of osteopathic medicine, master of science in medical/health care simulation and master of science in neuromusculoskeletal sciences — is contingent upon NYIT receiving regional and national accreditation.

'Without Context'

Word of COCA's denial of the NYIT application was circulated Monday by the Arkansas Osteopathic Medical Association in a newsletter to its members. 

Hankins called the report "misleading and without context regarding the complex accreditation process."

"Frankly, we are disappointed that the AOMA is attempting to politicize the accreditation process and that the organization never contacted us for clarification on our standing," Hankins said. "In fact, the AOMA has never provided our partnership's efforts to advance osteopathic medical education in Arkansas any assistance, refusing at times to answer basic questions regarding procedure or to engage in dialogue with principles guiding the process."

Frazier Edwards, executive director of AOMA, said the organization's intent was "to address queries regarding information that concerns the osteopathic profession in Arkansas.” 

"The AOMA reported the news given to us and stated the facts accordingly and accurately," Edwards said in a statement. "The AOMA has made no attempt to discredit NYIT-COM or ASU, and are deeply saddened by [Hankins'] erroneous comments about means for keeping interested parties informed with accurate information.

"Our information can be validated by the national accrediting agency — COCA," Edwards said. "Members of our organization found it misleading when information regarding COCA's action to deny NYIT was not effectively communicated to them by NYIT or ASU following the initial decision or their lack of filing an appeal of the decision."

Edwards also said AOMA was "saddened" by Hankins' statements "about our association's lack of support or communication with their project."

"As Mr. Hankins well knows, for numerous years prior to NYIT's involvement, the AOMA met with and attempted to aid ASU in their efforts to establish a school of their own," Edwards said. “Our association has appropriately documented every meeting with their institution and its leaders."

Fort Smith Progress

AOMA has been working with organizers of another proposed osteopathic medical school in Arkansas.

Construction of the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Smith is scheduled to begin in the spring. Risley & Associates of Fort Smith have been selected as architect of the $75 million project. Cromwell Architects Engineers of Little Rock have partnered with Risley on the master plan.

The project has received $13.5 million from Sparks Health System, which plans to release an additional $10 million late next year. It also received $58 million from the Fort Smith Regional Healthcare Foundation and another $14 million from an anonymous donor.

Kyle Parker, the president and CEO of the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education who has been tapped to lead the college, has said that, in all, the school has about $80 million in cash on hand. Organizers are aiming for an August 2016 opening and an enrollment of about 150 students.

Konrad Miskowics-Retz, associate vice president of accreditation for AOA and secretary for COCA, said ACHE has submitted a feasibility study to be evaluated for pre-accreditation.

In Jonesboro, university leaders have projected startup costs for its school at about $10 million. NYIT has pledged $6 million for startup operating funds and faculty in the first three years, and A-State will invest $4 million to renovate and furnish Wilson Hall, which will house the college. Target enrollment at the Jonesboro campus is 115 students.

NYIT-COM’s main campus is in Old Westbury, New York. It is one of about 30 osteopathic schools in the country and has more than 1,100 students.

At the COCA Presentation

Among the NYIT representatives that presented the substantive change appplication to COCA was Ross-Lee; Dr. Wolfgang Gilliar, dean of  NYIT-COM; Abraham Jeger, associate dean of clinical education; and David Broder, associate dean of postgraduate education and CEO of the New York Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Education Consortium.

From Arkansas State was Chuck Welch, president of the ASU System; Jason Penry, vice chancellor for university advancement at A-State; and Shane Speights, past president of the AOMA and chief medical officer at St. Bernards Regional Medical Center in Jonesboro. Gov. Mike Beebe also endorsed the proposed medical school in a video message.

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