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Osteopathic Medical Education Will Help With Shortages

First-year enrollment at the nation’s colleges of osteopathic medicine is projected to increase// to more than 4,474 in 2011-12, a 45.3 percent increase since 2002-03.

With the addition of COM Mesa of AT Still University of Health Sciences, in Mesa, Arizona; the Debusk College of Osteopathic Medicine of Lincoln Memorial University, in Harrogate, Tennessee; and the TOURO College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City, a new wave of future osteopathic physicians (DOs) will be prepared to help meet the nation’s increasing health care workforce shortage.

These three schools (slated to admit their first classes in Fall 2007), two additional schools in the states of Washington and Colorado (planning to open in 2008), and the growth in class sizes at the existing colleges all will help strengthen the osteopathic medical field’s ability to provide high-quality health care to patients nationwide. And with osteopathic medicine’s special focus on primary care, especially in rural and urban underserved areas, osteopathic physicians will be able to have a greater impact on the U.S. population’s health and wellbeing.

Growing numbers of DOs will provide some relief to projected physician workforce shortages, which are slated to reach a critical point over the next 10-15 years. Barring significant changes in U.S. health care delivery systems, the gap between the nation’s demand for physicians and the number of physicians practicing medicine will exceed 50,000 by 2020.

The number of colleges of osteopathic medical education (COMs) and affiliated branch campuses has grown from just five in 1963 to 14 in 1980 to 26 today, increasing the role osteopathic medical education can play in addressing the projected shortages. The concomitant swelling ranks of DOs constitute a critical sector in the U.S. health care system. Active osteopathic physicians now number more than 53,000, or 7 percent of the nation’s 744,000 physicians, and 2,900 m
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