Osteopathic Colleges Bet on Hybrid Schools to Ease Physician Shortage

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Osteopathic Colleges Bet on Hybrid Schools to Ease Physician Shortage

Collaborative medical education could bring more doctors to hospitals in underserved rural areas.

Private osteopathic medical schools are bringing physicians to areas where they’re needed most. The osteopathic medical colleges are collaborating with public universities to open hybrid schools, which are branches on public university campuses.

Hospital HR leaders should be aware of this new education option as they recruit clinicians.

Osteopathic Colleges Bet on Hybrid Schools to Ease Physician Shortage
Barbara Ross-Lee, MD

Barbara Ross-Lee, DO, is vice president of health sciences and medical affairs at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT)’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, based in Old Westbury, New York. Ross-Lee is also site dean of NYIT’s first hybrid school, which opened earlier this month on the campus of Arkansas State University, in Jonesboro.

“It’s kind of a win-win concept for medical education,” says Ross-Lee. “It’s our goal that these students will graduate medical school, will take a residency training position in the region, and when they complete their residency they will stay and serve the community,” she says.

Ross-Lee took some time to answer a few questions about hybrid campuses for osteopathic medical schools and alternatives for other kinds of clinicians. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Why are NYIT and other osteopathic medical colleges opening hybrid schools?

Ross-Lee: We are facing a shortage of physicians around the country, and medical schools, both MD and DO, are using different strategies to expand. MD schools are increasing their class sizes, for example.

Osteopathic healthcare has an accreditation process where schools can establish a different campus or an additional site. The additional site is a very cost-effective way in which to expand class sizes by establishing an educational program at a different location.

This option allows us to align with other institutions as partners. In this instance, the College of Osteopathic Medicine at NYIT is partnering with Arkansas State University.

We chose Arkansas because the state ranks number 48 out of 50 states for healthcare. It has a severe physician shortage, and only has one medical school. The ability to open a second or even expand existing schools has been hindered by the economics of the state.

So this was an opportunity to bring more education to Arkansas, and also [hopefully] increase the number of physicians practicing in the state.

What should healthcare HR leaders know about hybrid medical schools?

Ross-Lee: Hybrid medical schools are emerging, and represent a pipeline for healthcare leadership, particularly in areas of the country that are struggling to recruit the kinds of physicians or specialists they need.

We have critical workforce needs in many areas of healthcare, including nursing. And this type of model might be a way to make it happen.

The DO and MD accreditation models are different. Have medical schools followed the lead of osteopathic medical colleges?

Ross-Lee: The MD schools can open branch campuses. I know of examples in the MD world where they have done something similar to this, but have not aligned themselves with another institution.

Is attending school at the Arkansas campus different than attending in New York?

Ross-Lee: One of the requirements is that at least 50% of the curriculum must be identical. Each community has its culture, and there may be opportunities and experiences in the community that differ from each site. You build the curriculum around that.

In Arkansas, population health is a really important concept that students need to understand if they are going to stay and practice in Arkansas. We’re adding additional curriculum that is focused on population health for students on our Arkansas campus.

Also, because the population is much more rural than in New York, we’re also providing much more education around telemedicine. Our students need to be prepared to understand the methodologies and delivery of it.

What do hybrid school partnerships mean for the future of medical education?

Ross-Lee: The hybrid school concept can be applied to any other discipline. For rural schools that are suffering and don’t have resources to compete with urban public schools, this may be a way to share information. The schools could share resources by using technology, doing it in a way that helps to maintain quality at the same time.

The hybrid approach is a cost-effective way to expand medical education into areas that are suffering from a shortage of physicians, as medical students tend to stay in and practice in areas where they trained. Your best shot at populating these underserved states with clinicians is to educate them in those states.

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