Proposed medical college breaks ground

The College of Osteopathic Medicine is expected to open August 2020 and eventually accept classes of up to 150 students. It plans to hire 19 teachers and faculty along with 20 physicians.

The College of Osteopathic Medicine is expected to open August 2020 and eventually accept classes of up to 150 students. It plans to hire 19 teachers and faculty along with 20 physicians.

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Proposed medical college breaks ground
Sam Houston State University intends to bring more primary care physicians to the Montgomery County area with the construction of its College of Osteopathic Medicine, which broke ground in Conroe mid-November.

Although the college is still in the accreditation process—with SHSU’s proposed doctorate in osteopathic medicine degree receiving approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Aug. 14—construction on the college has begun.

Five years after SHSU began proposals for the college, the project broke ground Nov. 16 on 7.3 acres in Johnson Development Corp.’s master-planned community Grand Central Park. Plans for the college feature a five-story, 216,000-square-foot building.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Charles Henley, dean of the new College of Osteopathic Medicine, said construction will be substantially complete by Dec. 31, 2019 with the first class of 75 students to be admitted August 2020.

SHSU President Dana Hoyt said the college will collaborate with hospitals in rural East Texas counties to establish residency training programs and already has affiliation agreements with 26 hospitals.

“In our East Texas service area there is one primary care physician for every 4,510 people,” Hoyt said. “Residents of this region … understand the impact of this critical shortage all too well.”

Dr. Larry Verfurth, chief medical officer at Conroe Regional Medical Center, said creation of the college will be beneficial to CRMC—a large hiring body of primary physicians in Conroe—as it has the potential to add more primary care physicians to the region.

“Our area will benefit from the potential doctors that would remain in the area to practice,” Verfurth said. “Historically, up to 60 percent of osteopathic medical school graduates pursue primary care. Many of these physicians elect to practice in the area they trained. Additionally, the presence of academic medicine typically benefits the community by bringing the most up-to-date care to the area.”

Adding primary care physicians to the region also provides more professional job opportunities in the Conroe area. Henley said SHSU officials estimate the college will hire roughly
40 faculty, staff and physicians.

“Students choose a specialty that they think will get them more money, or they want to live in an urban setting,” Henley said. “Nationally, the average [ratio of] one provider to the number of patients they take care of is 1,200 to 1, but in East Texas it’s over 4,000 to 1. So what we’d like to do, I think, is change the workforce.”
By Kelly Schafler

Managing editor, South Houston

Kelly joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in June 2017 after majoring in print journalism and creative writing at the University of Houston. In March 2019, she transitioned to editor for the Lake Houston-Humble-Kingwood edition and began covering the Spring and Klein area as well in August 2020. In June 2021, Kelly was promoted to South Houston managing editor.