Colorado approves institution of new osteopathic medical school

The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) has the greenlight to create a college of osteopathic medicine to help support the state’s health care expansion plans. Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 56 on Thursday which unanimously passed in both chambers with overwhelming bipartisan support. Under the new law, UNC can establish its medical degree program in osteopathy, a branch of primary care that focuses on a holistic approach to treating patients.

 

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Colorado’s population has grown 14% over the last decade, making it one of the fastest growing states in the country. The pandemic prompted many older workers, including physicians, to retire earlier. A recent study calculated Colorado would have a shortfall of 2,424 physicians by 2030 if trends continued at their current trajectories. 

Officials are hoping the UNC program and others being similarly developed across the state will improve accessibility and health outcomes over time.

“I am grateful that our community, state legislators and Governor Polis share in our belief that more healthcare professionals in Colorado are needed and that a new medical college at UNC would go a long way in addressing the physician shortage that exists,” said Andy Feinstein, UNC president.

Graduates from the program would be designated as Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.s), distinct from traditional allopathic medicine where physicians receive an M.D. and treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery. In practical terms, the D.O. and the M.D. share the same medical rights and privileges to practice. However, osteopathic physicians focus on overall patient wellness with a holistic hands-on approach to care that emphasizes disease and injury prevention.

UNC will now move forward with appointing the founding dean, developing program curriculum, completing the accreditation process, and securing investment. Administrators are looking to secure $150 million through state and private funding, philanthropy, and partnerships to help establish the college. If all goes according to plan, the school could enroll its first class of 25 students by fall of 2025.