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Flood of new medical schools filling accreditation pipeline

While some future medical schools exist only on paper, 12 are in the process of leaping the official hurdle.

By — Posted Jan. 21, 2008

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Officials who accredit medical schools are busier than usual these days. The creation of new campuses and the expansion of existing ones has accreditation agencies hopping as state officials and medical educators seek more physicians to prevent a shortage.

In 2007, seven allopathic medical schools were in various stages of the accreditation process. Five osteopathic schools won provisional accreditation, which allows them to start admitting medical students.

The rush is particularly unusual for the allopathic medical school community, which as had only one new school open in the past 20 years. The osteopathic community has added 10 schools since 1981.

"It's been a very active year for the LCME," said Barbara Barzansky, PhD, American Medical Association secretary to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. "In addition to new schools, there are other modes of expansion, like branch campuses, that require visits as well."

Without a stamp of approval from the LCME for allopathic programs or the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation for osteopathic schools, graduates from new schools cannot take the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam, and the schools cannot receive federal grants or participate in federal loan programs. Most state licensing boards will not license U.S. medical graduates from unaccredited schools.

Instead of the typical 15 to 18 site visits -- required to maintain accreditation for the 125 U.S. and 17 Canadian medical schools the LCME oversees -- Dr. Barzansky said LCME representatives made 50 site visits in 2007.

Under the LCME, new schools may win initial, provisional accreditation for a designated first-year class, with full accreditation possible in the year the charter class graduates. The osteopathic schools face a similar accreditation process.

Three allopathic schools in development have what is called applicant status with the LCME, which means that they have paid their application fee and have a current or anticipated charter to offer an educational program. These schools are:

  • The Commonwealth Medical College, Scranton, Pa.
  • Hofstra University School of Medicine, Hempstead, N.Y.
  • Oakland University Beaumont Medical School, Rochester, Mich.

The LCME has approved planning documents for four other developing allopathic schools and given approval for a site visit, which means that these schools are now considered candidates for provisional accreditation. These schools are:

  • Florida International University College of Medicine, Miami.
  • Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, El Paso, Texas.
  • Touro University College of Medicine, Hackensack, N.J.
  • University of Central Florida College of Medicine, Orlando.

Konrad C. Miskowicz-Retz, PhD, the American Osteopathic Assn. secretary for COCA said the organization granted initial provisional accreditation to the following schools, which allows them to admit medical students.

He said four other developing medical schools had applied for COCA accreditation but would not release their names because they have not been formally recognized yet.

Below are the schools that won provisional accreditation in 2007:

  • A.T. Still University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine-Mesa in Mesa, Ariz.
  • Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harrogate, Tenn.
  • Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine in Yakima, Wash.
  • Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Parker, Colo.
  • Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York.

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