Work together to solve Idaho’s physician shortage

admin//May 9, 2022

Work together to solve Idaho’s physician shortage

admin//May 9, 2022

On May 13, 2022, the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM) will graduate its inaugural class of 145 students.

Establishment of the Meridian-based college was announced by former Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter on Feb. 26, 2016. The college was to be a private school formally affiliated with Idaho State University.

Dr. Tracy Farnsworth

ICOM was founded to address the acute and growing shortage of physicians in this region and beyond. Idaho is ranked 50th in the nation in overall physicians per capita. ICOM works alongside the University of Washington’s (WWAMI) 50+-year-old medical education program and the University of Utah School of Medicine to train Idaho’s next generation of physicians.

ICOM, WWAMI and the University of Utah’s graduating medical students will now complete three to five or more years of postgraduate residency training programs in Idaho and across the country. Our earnest hope and expectation is that many of these talented resident-physicians will soon return to practice medicine in Idaho.

We express deep appreciation to Gov. Brad Little and the Idaho Legislature for providing much-needed funding to assist in the creation of new Idaho-based medical residency programs and positions in the much-needed areas of family medicine, internal medical, psychiatry, pediatrics and more. We also express heartfelt appreciation to the hundreds of physician preceptors who provide outstanding hands-on clinical training to our student-doctors and physician-residents in our many community-based hospitals and clinical sites across Idaho, the mountain west and beyond.

The social and economic impact of a single physician — especially in our rural Idaho communities — well exceeds $1.9 million per year. The business case for growing our physician workforce is compelling and requires a great spirit of collaboration and cooperation among many leaders and organizations in both the public and private sectors.

Approximately 75% of medical students graduate with significant financial debt — and the median education debt for the class of 2021 was over $200,000. In partnership with Blue Cross of Idaho (BCI), ICOM and BCI leaders recently announced the creation of the Primary Care Initiative (PCI) — a private not-for-profit foundation devoted to raising funds for medical student scholarships and tuition loan repayment to physicians who are eager and able to practice primary care in rural Idaho.

ICOM receives over 3,500 applications and interviews roughly 700 students per year to matriculate a class of 162. The academic preparation and overall quality of these young student doctors is outstanding. And now after four years of rigorous study and clinical training, ICOM’s inaugural class will graduate with much fanfare at the Morrison Center in downtown Boise next week. Please join me in congratulating these talented and devoted young physicians — the future doctors and health care leaders of Idaho and beyond.

— Dr. Tracy J. Farnsworth is the president of the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine.