ATHENS, Ohio (April 30, 2011) – The Osteopathic Heritage Foundations' $105 million award to Ohio University's College of Osteopathic Medicine represents the largest private donation ever given to a college or university in Ohio. This gift will be used to address some of the most pressing health care issues across the state and the nation – the impending shortage of primary care physicians and the diabetes epidemic.
The transformational gift was jointly announced by the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM) and the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations in Columbus, Ohio, during the Ohio Osteopathic Symposium held at the Hilton Columbus Easton Town Center.
"We have never before considered a grant or an award of this magnitude," said Richard A. Vincent, President and CEO of the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations. "Nor have we considered an award that has the potential impact that this one will have in both central and southeast Ohio. Given the urgent needs in health care, like an impending shortage of primary care physicians and a burgeoning epidemic of diabetes and related illnesses, the time was right and the choice of a recipient was clear."
"We feel that Ohio University, and its College of Osteopathic Medicine, specifically, are in the best position to facilitate addressing these issues," he said. "The money is going to Ohio University and its College of Osteopathic Medicine, but it's going there because it is, we feel, the best position to facilitate the impact in the community with regard to service and education."
In recognition of the award, the medical school will be renamed the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, pending approval by Ohio University's Board of Trustees at its June meeting.
According to a Chronicle of Higher Education report published in March detailing private cash gifts given to universities and colleges since 1968, the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations' award:
"This is a really remarkable gift, one that will be transformational for both Ohio University and the College of Osteopathic Medicine," said Dr. Jack A. Brose, Dean of OU-COM. "We have had a very long and valuable relationship with the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations. They have been central to many of the exciting things that we have done as a medical school. They have worked with us to help us determine the direction of the college."
"This historic gift from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations will forever change Ohio University and our College of Osteopathic Medicine," said Roderick J. McDavis, Ohio University President. "We are grateful to the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations for their commitment which will dramatically broaden our ability to improve the human condition of the people of Ohio. This gift will transform lives."
Closing the "Doctor Gap" by Building in Central Ohio
By the year 2025, some experts predict there will be a shortage of at least 124,000 physicians in the U,S,¹, particularly primary care physicians. "Primary care is desperately needed in this country yet the number of physicians going into primary care continues to decrease," said Dr. Brose. " We must reverse that trend."
To help turn those numbers around, OU-COM plans to expand its class size and build an extension campus in central Ohio. Mr. Vincent believes that Ohio University's plans will further enhance central Ohio's growing national reputation as a destination for medical education.
"Central Ohio has a number of highly respected health care systems. OhioHealth, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Mount Carmel Health and The Ohio State University Medical Center, all of which offer graduate medical education," said Mr. Vincent, "Having Ohio University's extension campus established in central Ohio will enhance medical education opportunities and lead to more physicians remaining in Ohio to practice."
Since its inception in 1975, OU-COM has specialized in the recruitment, training and placement of primary care physicians, which includes family practice, general internal medicine and pediatrics. More than half of the medical school's practicing graduates serve as primary care physicians and 60 percent stay in Ohio to practice. That makes OU-COM number one in Ohio, and near the top ten nationally in medical schools that graduate physicians who practice primary care, particularly in under-served rural areas.²
"Our goal is to become nothing less than the leader of primary care education," said Dr. Brose. "This gives us an opportunity on our new central Ohio campus to focus in on the needs of central Ohio. It also broadens our ability to service communities of need throughout the entire state."
The location for the new site is still being finalized. However, the campus is slated to take its first incoming class by August, 2014.
Once open, it will enroll 50 new students each year, in addition to the 140 who are admitted annually at the Athens campus. By 2019, it is anticipated that the Heritage medical college will be graduating 200 students annually.
Enhancing Research into Diabetes
On the Athens campus, this funding award will also help expand research and treatment of diabetes, a disease expected to skyrocket in the U.S. by a staggering 165 percent by 2050³, eventually affecting one in three Americans. Appalachian Ohio has the highest incidence of diabetes, obesity and related metabolic diseases in the state (11.3 percent), and rates that are much higher than the national average (7.5 percent).⁴
There is a firm foundation for diabetes research on the Athens campus, and the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations funding award will facilitate expanded research into this devastating disease.
"In order to enhance that type of research you need an infrastructure - a modern, up-to-date, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and this award is certainly going to help in that arena.," said John Kopchick, PhD, professor of molecular biology at OU-COM.
As a result of this award, the college plans to build a new Diabetes/Endocrine Clinical Treatment Research Center on the Athens campus, which will attract prominent researchers to Athens. The new center will also serve diabetic patients better and enhance programs designed to prepare primary care physicians in diabetes management and research.
Dr. Kopchick, the Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar, says the commitment by the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations is unique, in that it will impact patients immediately and support research leading to future treatments and cures. "To be able to increase the research capabilities, the clinical capabilities like this, it's a game changer," Dr. Kopchick said.
Taking Aim at the Leading Cause of Disability in the U.S.
Another critical issue facing health care in this country is the cost of treating musculoskeletal disorders and diseases. These conditions are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. Despite the enormous related health care costs, however, funding for research to reduce the pain and suffering created by these conditions is less than 2 percent of the budget of the National Institutes of Health.⁵
Part of the award from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations will help fund a new research facility for the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI). For more than a quarter of a century, physicians and scientists at Ohio University have worked together to conduct groundbreaking, interdisciplinary research into these conditions, making it one of the longest running research entities at OU-COM.
"Helping people address and live with chronic pain, low back pain, especially, is right in line with our mission," said Mr. Vincent. "Our priorities are community health and quality of life, osteopathic medical care, and research," he said. "All are components targeted by the OMNI project, and OU-COM as an institution."
"Just the Beginning"
While the $105 million dollar award will make Ohio philanthropic history, the future benefits to the community at large and the transformational projects that it will support will have a dramatic effect on the future. Administrators at OU-COM and the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations hope this transformational gift will energize the University's alumni, as well as other corporations and individuals to invest further in OU-COM.
"We're very excited about the award. It gives me chills," says Dr. Kopchick. "But, it's a starting place. To think that this is the end-all, this is all we need and we're going to rest on our laurels, we don't do that."
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¹The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections Through 2025, Association of American Medical Colleges, October 2008.
²Academic Medicine, April 2010.
³Projection of Diabetes Burden Through 2050, Impact of changing demography and disease prevalence in the U.S., American Diabetes Association, November 2001. Online at: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/24/11/1936.full
Research from OU-COM and OHIO's Appalachian Rural Health Institute (ARHI) online at: http://www.ohio.edu/compass/stories/10-11/10/appalachia-rising-diabetes-903.cfm
The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases, Bone and Join Burden.org, Retrieved online April 2011 at: http://www.boneandjointburden.org/pdfs/bums_executive_summary_low.pdf
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