The college will recruit an initial class of 75, with the intention of growing enrollment during its initial years to a total of 600 students enrolled at full maturity. Doctors of osteopathic medicine primarily serve as family doctors or general practitioners, for which a large unmet need exists nationally.
The University is commencing a national search to hire a founding dean of the new college of osteopathic medicine. It seeks a scholar and practitioner who appreciates the changing demands of health care around the world and the importance of integrative approaches to health care.
Duquesne planned for the addition of an osteopathic medical school during the creation of the University's 2018-2023 strategic plan, Re-Imagining Duquesne's Spiritan Legacy for a New Era. Following the encouraging completion of a feasibility study with globally recognized consulting firm Tripp Umbach, the administration decided to pursue accreditation.
"This major leap forward for Duquesne, Pittsburgh and our region is a bold move that recognizes how health care requires new kinds of practitioners," says Duquesne President Ken Gormley.
Gormley notes it is somewhat surprising that a major metropolitan area like Pittsburgh, with its excellent health care systems and options, does not already have an osteopathic medical school.
"Given Duquesne's broad strengths in elements connected to integrative health-in pharmacy, nursing, the natural sciences, health sciences, and even in business and music-we are exceptionally well suited to serve this need in our region," Gormley says. "Training highly-qualified family doctors is also directly aligned with our mission as a Catholic and Spiritan University."
Launch and Accreditation
The accreditation process for osteopathic medical schools requires placing a founding dean in charge to recruit faculty, design curriculum, identify and construct space for instruction and to recruit students. Accreditation is reserved until a school can demonstrate its ability to provide instruction, recruit students and graduate them with viable degrees. The accreditation process can take up to three years.
"We have planned well for this move and will succeed in creating this resource at Duquesne," says Duquesne University Provost Dr. David Dausey. "We envision a school of medicine that ties together interprofessional opportunities across all of our health programs."
Dausey explains that the vision for the school is tied to integrative health and medicine. "Integrative medicine considers the medical practitioner and the patient as partners not only in healing but also in prevention and general wellness," Dausey says. "Integrative health values what often is termed 'western' scientific approaches to medicine just as much as conceptions of health, wellness and other cultural approaches to healing."
In addition to practitioner training, Duquesne's program will include work in the ethics of integrative medicine as well as a focus on serving marginalized populations, aligning integrative health practice with Spiritan values of service that have been a hallmark of Duquesne for more than 140 years.
"At the core, we seek a leader to educate medical students to look at the mind, body and spirit of their patients, to be with them and to listen to their concerns," Dausey says. "While such practice certainly is about curing, it is equally about caring."
The Right Place, The Right Time
Duquesne presently has nine schools spanning business, education, health sciences, law, liberal arts, music, natural sciences, nursing and pharmacy. The college of osteopathic medicine will be Duquesne's 10th school.
"It will be more than just a tenth school," Dausey says. "The College of Osteopathic Medicine will be a hub, synthesizing in some ways all that we do well. Because integrative health demands cultural competencies, liberal arts is also involved. We have a music therapy program here. The connection between law and medicine has many tentacles. Education is as much about wellness as it is about knowledge, and business concerns can both aggravate and ameliorate health challenges. Finally, our strengths in all allied and practical health fields already are obvious. We have an abundance of talent and expertise here to work with."
With its many highly ranked programs and its national draw for students, Duquesne is well-positioned. The Association of American Medical Colleges in April 2019 published a study showing a coming shortage of as many as 122,000 physicians.
"The University of Pittsburgh has an internationally recognized medical school, focused on M.D. and Ph.D. offerings," Dausey notes. "Trends show medical students trained at major academic medical centers tend to practice primarily in medical sub-specialties, while osteopaths are more likely to become general practitioners, where the need for more physicians is even greater."
Duquesne officials and Tripp Umbach consultants conferred with representatives from regional universities, medical professionals and a variety of individuals in city and state government while exploring the potential for the college of osteopathic medicine. Duquesne officials confirm the plans were met with enthusiasm, with regional hospitals noting that even with existing medical schools in the area, their needs for residents and interns remained high, particularly for osteopathic practitioners.