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Kansas’ first osteopathic medical school is recruiting students for next fall

Dr. Dickerman and Dr. Masson
Kansas Health Science Center
Dr. Dickerman and Dr. Masson

A new school for osteopathic medicine in Wichita has received pre-accreditation status, giving it the green light to begin recruiting students.

The Kansas College of Osteopathic Medicine will open its doors in August 2022 in downtown Wichita. Launched by the nonprofit Kansas Health Science Center, the school will be the first of its kind in Kansas.

Dr. Tiffany Masson, president of the nonprofit, said she hopes the new college will help bring more physicians to Kansas.

“The majority of them (students) will go into primary care, and we know that we need more primary care physicians,” she said. “Not to mention the physician shortage that we already see and that will exponentially grow by 2032.”

Osteopathic medicine is a field that takes a “whole person” approach, aiming to treat each patient holistically rather than just addressing symptoms. With a focus on preventative care, those who practice osteopathic medicine aim to help patients change their lifestyles to treat and prevent illness.

For the school, Masson said that means training future physicians to account for factors like culture and socioeconomic background.

“Also our focus is on the underserved,” she said. “So really focusing on rural and urban areas where we know there are underserved and access to health care is really limited.”

The new campus near Douglas and Broadway, spans about 116,000 square feet and will feature state-of-the-art technology and learning spaces. Other features include an osteopathic skills training center, standardized patient teaching rooms, large lecture halls, small group study rooms and a virtual anatomy lab.

The building’s total cost comes to about $30 million, Masson said. Riverside Health Foundation donated about $15 million toward the project.

Students will enroll in a four-year program at the college. When the school opens, it anticipates having 99 full-time and part-time employees — with a goal of recruiting 85 students to its inaugural class. Once fully operational, the school plans to have classes of about 170 students.

In the last two years, the school has prioritized recruiting experienced faculty, developing curriculum and building community relationships, the school said in a news release.

Dr. Joel Dickerman, dean and chief academic officer, described the school’s curriculum as “student-focused, patient-centered and community based” in a release.

“Medicine is advancing so rapidly, and technologies are ever-changing; we are steadfast in our approach to ensure our physicians are trained to meet the needs of patients now and well into the future,” Dickerman said.

There are currently 37 accredited osteopathic medical schools in the United States, the majority of them private.

Choose DO, a collaboration of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, estimates about 34,000 students are enrolled in such institutions — accounting for 25% of all U.S. medical students.

Daniel Caudill reports on Kansas state government for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. He was a general assignment reporter for KMUW and a reporter, photographer and digital content manager for The Derby Informer and an editor and reporter for The Sunflower. In the spring of 2020, Daniel helped cover the legislative session in Topeka as an intern for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @CaudillKMUW.