With 80 percent of Texas counties designated as medically underserved, Sam Houston State University hopes to meet the needs of the East Texas region by opening a college of osteopathic medicine in Conroe by 2020.
The new college has been in the works since 2015 with plans to open in Conroe’s Grand Central Park for the 2020 fall semester. The doctorate program will be a four-year professional program with intensive classroom training during the first two years followed by student rotations through selectives in surgery, medicine and women’s health. Each class will have 150 students and the program will reach capacity at 600 students.
“Texas faces a significant shortage of physicians practicing in primary care,” said Dr. Charles Henley, dean of the SHSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Since osteopathic physicians are more likely to practice in primary care specialties and [work] with underserved populations, increasing the pipeline of primary care physicians through the expansion of osteopathic schools is a sound solution to a growing health care problem.”
Osteopathic medicine uses modern medicine, while also incorporating hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system known as osteopathic manipulative medicine, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.
SHSU officials said Texas ranks 32nd in total medical student enrollment, yet it is second in population growth nationwide. Likewise, the state ranks 41st for total active physicians per capita, 47th for total primary care physicians per capita and 48th for total general surgeons per capita.
The state also ranks 26th out of the 27 states with colleges of osteopathic medicine.
“Health care ranks in the top five consumer spending categories in Montgomery County,” Henley said. “It is estimated that by 2025, North Harris and Montgomery counties will need 15,295 nurses and 5,670 primary care physicians. Upholding a mission of primary care, the SHSU-COM will collaborate with hospitals and medical facilities in those areas of greatest need.”
With the addition of SHSU’s program and another through the University of the Incarnate Word, SHSU officials said Texas will move up to rank 18th out of 27 states with COMs.
“We chose osteopathic medicine as [SHSU’s] standard for medical education because it is the optimum solution to helping close a very real health care gap in Texas and improving the quality of life in underserved areas,” Henley said.