BY ILIE MITARU
The city of Lebanon will be the home of Oregon’s new medical school when the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific-Northwest (Comp-Northwest) opens its doors to its 105 freshmen July 30. It will also bring dozens of jobs to a city that needs them.
The school will be Western University of Health Sciences first permanent campus outside of Pomona, Calif. It is being constructed across Highway 20 from Samaritan Health Services and will employ 40 staff, including faculty. Samaritan Health Services, which runs five hospitals across Oregon, will build and own the 55,000-square-foot medical school building.
It’s not only the new medical school that will help bolster the community. A fitness center, retail pharmacy, urgent care facility and coffee shop are all slated to open in August. A credit union will open in December, and a veteran’s center will begin construction in 2012.
Samaritan CEO Larry Mullins estimates these facilities will create between 50 to 100 permanent jobs — welcome news in a region with high unemployment.
But the real value will be in educating physicians that remain in the area, says dean Clinton Adams. “The interview is structured for people who really want to be in the Northwest.” Two-thirds of residents end up living where they do their residency, he says, so training doctors in Oregon will keep them here. “Our little war cry is: from the Northwest, educated in the Northwest, for the Northwest.”
The nation is facing a shortage of physicians and the situation in Oregon is particularly dire: the state ranked 43 out of 45 states in total medical students per 100,000 population. OHSU is the only medical school in Oregon and currently accepts about 125 applicants a year. Because of this scarce availability, only 17% of Oregon physicians have attended medical school in the state. Comp-Northwest would double Oregon’s capacity for medical students.
Western University decided to locate the school in Oregon because of this need, the school’s long-standing relationship with Oregon through residency placements, as well as the city’s courting and quick approvals of the plan.
“It’s a community that really benefited from having a medical school,” says Paula Crone, associate dean, stressing that a larger community might not have worked so hard for the school. “In Lebanon, [the school’s] a big deal; it’s helping to rebuild a community.”
Ilie Mitaru is a contributing writer for Oregon Business.