Dean's Update 2023-04

April 17, 2023

Osteopathic Medicine Week: MSUCOM’s impact nationally and statewide

It seems appropriate that as we and the nation celebrate National Osteopathic Medicine Week, April 17-23, that we take the time to talk about the impact that a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) has on medical care, and more pointedly, the impact that D.O. alumni from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM) have had nationwide and here in our home state of Michigan, especially when looking at the need for primary care physicians.

MSUCOM meets the primary care health needs of Michigan’s residents and in particular, the underserved

The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that primary care providers are critically important to the health and well-being of all residents of the state of Michigan. Yet, so many regions in the state are medically underserved, especially lacking physicians who specialize in the primary care fields, such as Family Practice, General Practice, Pediatrics and General Internal Medicine.

Recently, local news articles have highlighted the lack of primary care providers in the state and identified the need to promote the graduation of the next generation of physicians as primary care providers to address this concern. Read more here and here.

The 130-year-old D.O. profession has always emphasized a holistic medical approach to the preservation of health, as well as the treatment of disease. This emphasis naturally leads large numbers of the profession’s practitioners to enter primary care specialization careers as the means to achieve the best health care outcomes for all. These tenets continue to resonate, as greater than 25% of all medical students in the U.S. are now graduating from an Osteopathic Medical school. Enter MSUCOM.

“Michigan’s medical school” – MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine alumni stay in Michigan

Established in 1969 by legislative decree, the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine has been at the forefront of addressing these state-wide physician deficiencies. Despite not being the oldest, nor largest medical school in Michigan, the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine has committed to providing D.O. primary health care providers to the state of Michigan since its inception. As of 2022, the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine has graduated over 7,300 D.O. physicians, who practice in all states across the country and internationally, but who have primarily decided to practice their medical art in Michigan.

For example, according to a recent study by the National Center for the Analysis of Healthcare Data (NCAHD), just since 1985 the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine has graduated 6,580 D.O.s who are still in active practice, and 73% of these D.O. alumni (4,776) currently practice in Michigan. After conducting a comparable analysis using the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Masterfile and National Provider Identified (NPI) derived data, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) derived data, NCAHD found MSUCOM has more physician alumni practicing in Michigan than any other medical school in the state.

Furthermore, of the currently licensed and active practicing physicians in Michigan (34,114 M.D.s and D.O.s), over 25% are D.O.s (8,759), with over 54% of these D.O.s being alumni of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The NCAHD study also found that over 2,100 of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine D.O. alumni currently practicing in Michigan do so in the critically-needed primary care specialties for example Family Practice, General Practice, General Pediatrics, and General Internal Medicine and if one includes Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN), this number increases to over 2,400. These numbers are nearly equivalent to the number of similarly specialty physicians practicing in Michigan who are alumni from all other Michigan medical schools, combined.

NCAHD also confirmed similar trends when comparing the numbers of Michigan’s medical school alumni who practice in Michigan’s rural or underserved areas. Again, the percentage of MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine alumni practicing in rural areas is highest amongst all Michigan medical school alumni. In medically underserved areas, there are 1,381 MSUCOM alumni currently practicing, a number that nearly matches the total number of physicians practicing in similar areas, but who are alumni of the six other Michigan medical schools combined (1,432).

To translate this impact to people, NCAHD has calculated more than 1.7 million individuals residing in Michigan's rural areas are benefiting from the services provided by D.O. graduates of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. Additionally, over 4.3 million Michiganders who currently reside in Primary Care Health Professional Shortage areas are receiving care from D.O. alumni of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.

These and other data available in the NCAHD study validates a quote of mine that I like to share: “the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine is Michigan’s medical school.”

Osteopathic medical practitioners (D.O.s) have dramatic economic impacts on Michigan

Amongst MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine alumni practicing in Michigan alone, the economic impacts are as equally amazing as their cumulative healthcare impacts. Extrapolating from an American Medical Association (AMA) study, NCAHD estimates that MSUCOM alumni physicians generate over $8.2 billion in economic output, create over 24,000 jobs that are coupled with over $5.4 billion in associated wages. Together these efforts also generate over $600 million in state and local tax revenues annually. 

Even more staggering, the NCAHD study found that the over 8,700 D.O.s currently practicing in Michigan annually contribute nearly $15 billion in economic output, create over 63,000 jobs coupled with nearly $9.8 billion in associated wages, and contribute over $1.1 billion in state and local tax revenues. Read more about how physicians in rural areas alone can significantly effect health economics in this study.

More work to be done

As noted earlier, Michigan still has a primary care physician shortage, particularly in rural areas and those areas designated as medically underserved. The NCAHD study confirms the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine continues to lead the effort to meet this challenge in the state.

Moreover, this upcoming May 4th, another nearly 300 D.O.s will graduate from our medical school. Currently, more than 98% of these graduates have placed into a residency program, with ~78% of them electing to do their residency – in Michigan! Of these, most will be joining another nearly 2,000 physician residents and fellows affiliated with the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Statewide Campus System for graduate medical education (SCS-GME). It is well known (and the MSUCOM experience validates this) that where a medical student chooses to do their residency training highly correlates with where they eventually choose to practice. MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine’s continued support, development and expansion of the SCS has been critical to achieving the NCAHD validated outcomes, as studies have also shown that a major bottleneck in the physician pipelines is the lack of appropriate GME positions, especially those GME opportunities located in a community based setting.

Given this ongoing evidence of success, it’s my opinion that the future of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine shines bright as it continues its mission to improve the health and well-being of all Michiganders, especially those in medically underserved populations. This opinion is evidenced by our thousands of alumni leading the delivery of medical expertise throughout Michigan, especially in primary care.

Dean Andrea Amalfitano, D.O., Ph.D.