The American Osteopathic Association’s (AOA) Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation has approved Western University of Health Sciences’ plan to open an additional campus in Lebanon, OR, to train osteopathic medical students.

The College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP), the founding college of what is now WesternU, received approval to move the first two years of the University’s Northwest Track Osteopathic Medical Student Program from WesternU’s main campus in Pomona to Lebanon. The approval is for a class of 100 students, who will receive their entire osteopathic education in the Pacific Northwest. The first class will matriculate in August 2011.

The Northwest Track program was conceived and approved by the AOA in 2004, following the closure of Eastmoreland Hospital in Portland, OR. Eastmoreland was an academic partner with several osteopathic educational institutions for decades; indeed, most of the osteopathic physicians practicing in the Northwest did their third-year rotations, internships, residencies or taught residents at Eastmoreland.

Dr. Philip Pumerantz, founding president of COMP and current president of Western University of Health Sciences, also noted that the Northwest’s osteopathic state associations were key partners in the formation of COMP, a legacy that continued through the academic relationship with Eastmoreland.

The Northwest Track program permitted WesternU/COMP to annually increase class sizes by 30 students each year from six states – Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska. These students completed the first two years of their education at the main campus in Pomona, then performed their clinical rotations in the Northwest, primarily at settings along the Interstate 5 corridor.

The first group of Northwest Track students graduated in May 2008. Some 30 percent found residencies in the Northwest, a figure that is expected to grow rapidly as WesternU’s Osteopathic Graduate Training Institute, OPTI-West, supports Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center’s new residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, transitional year and psychiatry. Orthopedics, emergency medicine and women’s health (OB/GYN) are expected to follow shortly.

Dr. Larry Mullins, President and Chief Executive Officer of Samaritan Health Services, established the vision that is largely responsible for the success WesternU/COMP has enjoyed in creation of this addition to the future delivery of health-care services, providers and medical expertise to the communities in the Northwest Track area. Dr. Mullins said he is proud to support WesternU/COMP’s efforts to enhance relationships with long-standing partner hospitals and individual preceptors in all six Northwest Track states.

Dr. Mullins also has offered his template of residency development to any and all interested partners concerned about issues related to the growing number of medical school graduates but the flat to diminishing number of residency training opportunities.

WesternU/COMP will continue to offer updates on the Northwest Track program, milestones on the way to building a permanent facility in Lebanon, establishment of permanent faculty and recruitment of the Class of 2015.