The History of Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine

Founded by osteopathic physicians and hospital leaders to meet the need for new primary care physicians.

At a time when many experts predicted a nationwide surplus of doctors, founders of the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine saw an urgent need to open a medical school in Erie. In September 1988, the Board of Trustees of Millcreek Community Hospital (MCH) conducted a major strategic planning retreat. Attendees set forth a new hospital mission, emphasizing the need for educating osteopathic physicians to provide medical services to the medically underserved areas in northwestern Pennsylvania. 

LECOM ErieIn March 1989, the MCH Board of Trustees assembled an Osteopathic Medical School Task Force, which began to explore the feasibility of establishing a new osteopathic medical school. The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine was established as the nation's 16th college of osteopathic medicine with receipt of a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Charter in December 1992. On the West Grandview Boulveard campus overlooking the City of Erie, the Charter Class matriculated on August 9, 1993. With the graduation of LECOM's first Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) class on May 24, 1997, the college received full accreditation from the American Osteopathic Association.

Since then, LECOM has awarded degrees to more than 5100 osteopathic medicine and pharmacy graduates. Today, LECOM is the nation’s largest medical school and each year, LECOM will graduate more than 500 medical students and 260 pharmacy students.

LECOM Founders

Founding President Joseph J. Namey, D.O., was an acclaimed general practitioner and a tireless advocate of osteopathic medicine. A longtime resident of Erie, Dr. Namey has been credited with enhancing the image of osteopathic medicine across the country. John M. Ferretti, D.O., succeeded Dr. Namey, becoming the second president of LECOM. Dr. Ferretti was among the college's founders, and he is a nationally recognized leader in osteopathic medicine. He is board certified in internal medicine. When the college opened, the Board of Trustees appointed Silvia M. Ferretti, D.O., as the first woman dean of an osteopathic medical college.

  By 2002, college growth required LECOM to triple the size of the original medical school, expanding the modern teaching, learning and research facilities making room for LECOM School of Pharmacy. Pharmacy Lab in May 2001, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania approved the the School of Pharmacy which is one of the few pharmacy programs offering a year-round, three-year pathway to the Doctor of Pharmacy degree. 

Leading 21st Century Medical Education

LECOM takes a leadership role in medical education by matching curriculum programs to the varying learning styles of students. The college became the only osteopathic medical college offering traditional Lecture-Discussion (LDP), Directed Study (DSP) and Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Pathways for the preclinical curriculum of the D.O. program.

The college now offers a Primary Care Scholars Pathway. Based on the experience with the School of Pharmacy and Independent Study, the Primary Care Scholars Pathway has a unique, three-year curriculum focused on family medicine. That has led to the decision to develop a fifth pathway, the Accelerated Physician Assistant Pathway, which will be a bridge allowing certified physician assistants to become osteopathic physicians through a three-year program.

Additional Locations

LECOM has continued its national leadership role in osteopathic medicine by opening a branch campus in Bradenton, FL. Located in Lakewood Ranch, a new master-planned community in Manatee County, LECOM Bradenton welcomed its first class of medical students in 2004. The Florida campus enrolls all of its medical students in the Problem-Based Learning Pathway. In 2007, the LECOM School of Pharmacy expanded to offer a traditional four-year pathway for the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. An online, distance education Pharm.D.  is now offered.

LECOM has seen physician shortages continue in Pennsylvania. The college developed an agreement with Seton Hill University to extend the LECOM osteopathic medical degree program in Greensburg, PA. LECOM at Seton Hill opened in 2009 with the PBL pathway for its students.

The College determined that shortages of dentists in underserved areas have begun to undermine oral health and is leading to the increase in other diseases. In 2010, LECOM announced plans to open the School of Dental Medicine at the Bradenton Campus in 2012. Using an innovative community-based and problem-solving approach to dental education, faculty and dental students will have an impact on health care in the communities where they learn and work.

Graduate Studies 
In order to maintain the quality of medical education, LECOM also developed the Master of Science in Medical Education to train teaching physicians. The first candidates for the MS in Medical Education degree graduated in 2007. A second master degree, the MS in Biomedical Sciences is a two-year curriculum offering a more comprehensive learning opportunity for college graduates who want to pursue careers in medicine, pharmacy, and other health and science related professions.  In order to serve a growing need for healthcare facility administrators, the College introduced an online distance education curriculum for the Masters in Health Services Administration Degree.

Post-Graduate Medical Education
LECOM's growth called for an increase in available post-graduate training programs. The college created the Lake Erie Consortium for Osteopathic Medical Training (LECOMT) as part of the American Osteopathic Association's Osteopathic post-graduate Training Institutions. LECOMT oversees internship and residency programs at nearly 40 teaching affiliates in seven states.

Health Leadership in the Community

In 2009, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and Millcreek Community Hospital launched a project that converges health care services and fitness programs into one destination. The LECOM Health and Wellness Center, housing a premier fitness center and clinical offices of Medical Associates of Erie, has become a center where the Erie community can work toward disease prevention as well as seek treatment.

The spa-quality fitness center occupies the first two floors of the three-story building with three swimming pools, aerobic and yoga fitness rooms, basketball and racquetball courts, a three-lane indoor running track and a physical therapy facility. The third floor provides offices for Medical Associates of Erie, offering Internal Medicine, Integrative Medicine, Geriatrics, Orthopedic Surgery and OB-GYN care, as well as an independent imaging center.

The union of a comprehensive fitness center and medical offices into one center reflects osteopathic medicine’s commitment to preventive, total-person health care. The LECOM Health and Wellness Center provides options for exercise, health education and clinical care.

Construction began in 2013 for the LECOM Senior Living Center. The 144-bed skilled nursing facility, will provide the community with the next generation in quality healthcare for older adults.