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A word with Robert Hasty of ICOM, Idaho’s proposed medical school

Robert Hasty, D.O., at Idaho State University. Hasty was hired by investors to open a new for-profit medical school in Meridian. Photo by Pete Grady.

Robert Hasty, D.O., at Idaho State University. Hasty was hired by investors to open a new for-profit medical school in Meridian. Photo by Pete Grady.

Robert Hasty is a physician and administrator who was hired by investors last year to help create Idaho’s first medical school.

Hasty, 43, and an internist, worked as a hospitalist in Fort Myers, Fla., and moved to teach at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale before moving to Campbell University, a Baptist university in North Carolina that started an osteopathic medical school in 2013.  He eventually became associate dean for post-graduate affairs, in charge of Campbell’s medical residency programs, before being hired to the Idaho job last fall. He headed west in February to launch the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, or ICOM.

ICOM’s investors tried Montana first, but after meeting resistance from physicians there over the number of graduates they planned to produce, they turned to Idaho, where they worked quietly with the office of Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, the state Board of Education, and the state’s association of osteopaths before announcing plans for the school in April. The school received a $3.85 million Tax Reimbursement Incentive grant from the state, contingent upon the hiring of at least 50 people at eligible wages.

ICOM will apply to become a B Corp. or public benefit corporation, a legal entity that encourages companies to focus on societal needs and not just profits. It’s an unusual move for a for-profit institution of higher education, although education analysts expect to see more B Corps emerge in the higher education field as federal scrutiny of for-profit schools increases.

Hasty said ICOM will spend between $105 million and $125 million to get the school up and running in time to welcome an entering class of 150 people in 2018, including the construction of a $30 million to $40 million building at Idaho State University’s Meridian campus. The school, which is starting a lengthy accreditation process, is expected to employ about 90 people and have an annual budget of more than $20 million. Idaho Business Review spent some time with Hasty learning about the proposed school and what it would mean to the state. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Many stakeholders, including the Idaho Medical Association, were taken by surprise by your announcement that you were starting ICOM in Meridian. Why did you approach Idaho so quietly?

We talked to a lot of different stakeholders, but we certainly reached out to the IMA afterward. We had to take care of the things that we knew were the required elements of getting the school in place. We did spend a lot of time with the stakeholders we needed to talk to, from an accreditation standpoint.

Let’s look at the folks who wanted to talk to us. Some folks said they wished they would have told us ahead of time because they wanted to stop it.

Some stakeholders say it seemed a rather secretive approach.

It makes those folks who have those concerns look a little paternalistic. We’re being very open and very transparent right now.

For businesses who come to the state of Idaho, you don’t go around and ask everyone in the state if you can put your business there.

We made the decision based upon the needs.  I really want this to be an excellent relationship with not only IMA but all the stakeholders. The decision to come to Idaho is here, but we have a blank slate on what the school can look like. Let’s look forward, as opposed to looking backwards.

Who are the investors behind the medical school?

The majority investor is Rice University Foundation, or the Rice Management Corp., which runs the foundation. The Burrell Family is a private family. They hold a lot of other investments.

Why is ICOM applying to be a B Corp?

It just shows publicly how we put the mission of the medical school ahead of any other interest. We think training the next generation of physicians, and fulfilling the needs of not only Idaho but the region, is incredibly important. It’s also important for folks to know we’re not doing this for any other reason. There’s no tax incentive to be a B Corp.

Why did Montana say no to the school?

They didn’t say no. There were some stakeholders that didn’t want us, there’s opposition whenever you start a new medical school. Great Falls, Mont., really wanted us there. But we thought Idaho ended up making the most sense. Even though Idaho is going to be the base site for the medical school, we’ll have clinical hubs in communities all over the five-state region.

Idaho is 49th per capita in terms of physicians, and in terms of female physicians. It’s 46th in terms of primary care physicians, and ranks 48th in terms of graduate medical education, so the need here is clearly demonstrated. This is the epicenter of the great need here in the United States.

How much will it cost to attend the school?

Less than the national average for private osteopathic medical schools, which is the mid-$40,000 range.

Who is on your advisory council?

We’ll announce that in a month or so. I have made a number of offers. A lot of different stakeholders, the osteopathic association, physicians representing individuals as well as health systems.

Will there be someone from IMA on there?


Who is likely to apply?

We’ll have 4,000 to 5,000 applicants per year. We know that right now about 171 Idahoans have left the state of Idaho to pursue osteopathic medical school somewhere else.

The IMA has raised concerns that there won’t be enough residency spots for your graduates, so they might have to leave the state.

Graduate medical education or residency creation is central to our business, to our mission. We think (our) society needs more residency programs. Osteopathic graduates do well in getting into residencies.

We’ve already started a lot of conversations about creating residencies. We’ve made an offer to our affiliated hospital systems that we’re willing to give them up to $1.25 million in seed money for the development of residency programs.

Why did you take on this job?

I live my life with a purpose, to make a difference in the world by creating ICOM. The impact we’re going to make here is going to be far-reaching. It’s going to provide opportunities for folks to go to medical school, improve access for patients by having physicians, help reduce costs, and improve health care quality. We’re really here for the public good.



About Anne Wallace Allen

Anne Wallace Allen is the editor of the Idaho Business Review.