Why One Of Idaho’s Best-Known Doctors Says A New Medical School Could Be Bad For The State

Mar 1, 2016

Ted Epperly is president and CEO of Family Medicine Residency of Idaho.
Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

We learned last week that the state of Idaho has struck a deal with a group of investors who want to build a for-profit, osteopathic medical school on Idaho State University’s Meridian campus. When he made the announcement, Idaho Governor Butch Otter said the school would go a long way in solving Idaho’s doctor shortage. A few days earlier, Otter consulted with Ted Epperly - head of the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho and a past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Epperly says he expressed serious concerns about the new school.

Epperly has three main concerns about what will be called the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine.

1.   It won’t help with the doctor shortage.

Epperly says the data is clear, doctors seldom set up practice where they go to medical school, but often do where they have their residency. He says there are only 41 spots for residents in the state now and there is already intense competition to get them. Epperly says most of the graduates of the new med school will have to leave the state or even the country to get a residency because the number of med school grads nationally already greatly exceeds the number of spots for residents.

Epperly says what Idaho should be doing is trying to expand residency programs and create new ones.  He says the Idaho State Board of Education and Idaho Medical Association have been saying that for many years.

2.   It will damage the existing training infrastructure.

Epperly says both third and fourth-year med students need clinical training in the real world. That would be about 300 students from the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine. Those med students would need to share many of the same training sites as nurse practitioner and physician assistant students. He says there are simply not enough training sites to go around, so N.P. and P.A. students might have a hard time finishing their degrees.

3.   Won’t give preference to Idaho students.

Another claim made by the governor and others when the new medical school was announced was that it would give preference to Idaho students. Epperly doesn’t believe that will be the case. Because med schools get far more applicants than they can accept, he thinks the huge number of applications from around the country and beyond will mean few Idaho students will get in. 

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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