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New medical school hopes to help Idaho's physician shortage

Idaho's first medical school has accepted its first students.

When it comes to physicians per capita, Idaho ranks 49th out of 50. Medical professionals say the lack there of residency programs is a large contributor to that problem.

Idaho’s first medical school, located in Meridian, is a step in the right direction.

The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, or ICOM, is in the process of interviewing potential students. The college received thousands of applications, narrowed it down to 500 interviews and will then accept 150 students.

The school has already accepted 18 new medical students, 17 of which are from the Gem State.

Elias Lines is one of those 18 students.

“It's more of a part of me than just like going somewhere where I know I only want to be there for four years,” Lines said.

Lines was accepted to a few other medical schools, but being from Idaho there was only place he wanted to go.

“Idaho residents didn't necessarily have a school that was excited to get them, kind of a thing. We had to basically work our way into other states, but now that it's here we get to study here, work here. It's just better for the whole state,” Lines said.

ICOM is affiliated with five states: Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. The school is currently in the process of working with those states to develop residency programs for their students.

“Our goal is to create physicians to go into those communities, into those rural areas,” Mattie Bendall, Associate Dean of Students for ICOM said.

ICOM is still in the process of developing those residencies in Idaho, which is important as national studies show that 50 percent to 70 percent of the time a physician will practice medicine within a hundred miles of where they did their residency.

“Our students will scatter to do residency, but we hope to develop enough residencies here in the state of Idaho so our students will stay in Idaho. So, if you do your rotations here, you do your residency here, the likelihood of you sitting and staying in Idaho is extremely high,” Bendall said.

ICOM will teach their students osteopathic medicine as opposed to allopathic medicine, making them DOs rather than MDs. They’re both relatively the same, both can prescribe medicine, diagnose patients, the only difference is in philosophy.

“How they approach learning and also treating patients. They also have manipulative medicine. So, they can work kind of like a chiropractor also,” Lines said.

A school that will teach future physicians, like Lines.

“I want to be here and I’m excited to study here and possibly do a residency here,” Lines said.

Construction on Idaho’s first medical school is set to be completed by the middle of June with the first classes set to start this August.