The History of Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
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 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.
In March 1989, the 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. The Charter Class began on August 9, 1993. With the graduation of LECOM's charter class on May 24, 1997, the college received full accreditation from the American Osteopathic Association.
Beginning with less than 40 graduates, LECOM has awarded degrees to more than 3,200 osteopathic medicine and pharmacy graduates.
Today, LECOM is the nation’s largest medical school, yearly enrolling more students than any other medical school in the country. By the year 2013, LECOM will graduate more than 500 medical students and 260 pharmacy students annually.
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.
LECOM is a private, non-profit educational institution. The college is part of the Millcreek Health System; along with Millcreek Community Hospital, Millcreek Geriatric Care and Education Center and 31 physician practices managed by Medical Associates of Erie at 14 locations, including the John M. and Silvia Ferretti Medical Fitness and Wellness Center.
The Erie campus is located on Grandview Boulevard with an excellent view of Lake Erie. By 2002, college growth required LECOM to triple the size of the original medical school, expanding the modern teaching, learning and research facilities.
The College achieved another milestone in its brief history with the approval in May 2001 from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to add the LECOM School of Pharmacy. The School of Pharmacy 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, Independent Study and Problem-Based Learning 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.
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 degree.
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.
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 32 teaching affiliates in seven states.
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.
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.
Health Leadership in the Community
In 2007, 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.