For the first time in history, osteopathic medical students make up more than 25 percent of the U.S. medical student population. 

Fall 2018 (first-year) student enrollment at the nation’s colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) increased 5.7 percent from fall 2017 first-year student enrollment, according to data released by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)

Western University of Health Sciences osteopathic medicine programs in Pomona, California and Lebanon, Oregon reach their enrollment caps each year, so class sizes remain steady. But the increasing number of applications to both campuses reflects the growing interest in osteopathic medicine. 

The WesternU College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) in Pomona received 5,559 ACCOMAS applications in fall 2014. AACOMAS is the centralized online application service for U.S. colleges of osteopathic medicine. That number jumped to 6,602 in fall 2015 and to 6,943 in fall 2016. Similarly, COMP-Northwest in Lebanon received 3,095 applications in fall 2014, then increased to 3,715 in fall 2015 and 4,236 in fall 2016. The number of applications dropped slightly in the past two years, but remains far above the 2014 figures. 

“Osteopathic medicine has become an increasingly relevant field within the health care professions as more people seek wellness and a reduction in the devastating impact of chronic disease,” said College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Dean Paula M. Crone, DO ’92. “Our COMP and COMP-Northwest students clearly identify with the critical role that osteopathic medicine contributes to the well being of individuals, families, and their communities. We are proud to train our students to become physicians who practice the art and science of osteopathic medicine.” 

Among the key findings from AACOM’s preliminary fall 2018 enrollment report: The total number of new matriculants climbed from 7,901 in 2017 to 8,281 in 2018—an uptick of 4.8 percent. The preliminary number of DO students graduating from medical colleges between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, rose from 6,038 to 6,516, an increase of 7.9 percent.  

“As a distinct pathway to medical practice that continues to attract an increasing number of students throughout the United States, osteopathic medicine is leading the way in preparing the physician of the future,” said Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, President and CEO of AACOM. “Through innovative training models that focus on developing quality, patient-centered care, osteopathic medical schools are equipping future DOs with the competencies they need to meet the rapidly changing demands of our health care system.”  

Data in this report was provided by the nation’s osteopathic medical schools as of October 18, 2018, and represents preliminary findings. Final enrollment counts are collected in the annual osteopathic medical school questionnaire, and final matriculant counts are reported in AACOM’s applicant and matriculant report.