After reading the June issue of Academic Medicine, Associate Dean Hershey Bell, MD wrote the following article for the POMA Journal:
Each year, we begin the orientation for new students at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) with the playing of “God Bless America”. It is an important reminder to students that osteopathic medicine is the only truly American form of medicine. Because America has, for generations, represented innovation in the world, it makes sense that the only truly American form of medicine would be its leader in innovation.
This month, in the prestigious educational journal, Academic Medicine, co-authors Candice Chen, MD, MPH and Fitzhugh Mullan, MD of the Department of Health Policy, George Washington University, Washington, DC, published their commentary, “The Separate Osteopathic Medical Education Pathway: Uniquely Addressing National Needs.” In the article, they comment that “Osteopathic medical education has also remained flexible enough to develop new models for the continuation of (its primary care) mission.” They point to the fact that “of the nine new osteopathic schools opened since 2000, a majority have located in smaller metropolitan areas or in urban, historically underserved areas.” They point to the flexibility of osteopathic medical education as allowing the development of “innovative curriculum models with the goal of producing physicians to provide primary care and practice in underserved areas.”
Two specific examples highlighted by Chen and Mullan are the community health center model for clinical education at A.T. Still University in Mesa, AZ and “LECOM’s innovative primary care pathway that condenses four years of medical school into three, shortening the time and financial requirements for students pursuing primary care careers.” The authors view this “inventiveness and responsiveness to national problems” as being “not generally seen in allopathic schools”. They conclude by stating that “the output of osteopathic schools remains clearly distinctive, and the nation’s health care system benefits as a result”.
Fitzhugh Mullan, a former Assistant Surgeon General and director of the Bureau of Health Professions in the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) currently serves as Murdock Head Professor of Medicine and Health Policy at George Washington. Among his many publications is the book “Big Doctoring in America: Profiles in Primary Care.” In the final chapter, Building a Better Future: The Case for Primary Care, Mullan argues for changes in American medicine that would enable more Americans to benefit from access to health care generalists as a means toward giving “all of our citizens affordable humanistic care.” As one of America’s leading health policy voices, his endorsement of osteopathic medicine, and innovations such as those being pioneered by LECOM, is worth paying attention to.
Michael Whitcomb, MD, in an editorial in Academic Medicine in April 2006 suggested that “there is only one realistic way to (stop deterring qualified applicants from entering medical school): the length of the medical school curriculum must be shortened by one year.” The primarily allopathic panel of The Josiah Macy Foundation suggested in this year’s report, “Revisiting the Medical School Education Mission at a Time of Expansion” that medical school be shortened to three years. Allopathic physicians who are in the know say what we in the osteopathic profession are already doing: innovating in a truly American way to provide better health care for all Americans.