Growing up in what is now Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, Jamarcus Brider, OMS I, witnessed firsthand the challenges local hospitals faced in providing health care in his community, a village of approximately 12,000 nestled along the Mississippi River.
Many of the hospitals didn’t have MRI machines. Patients who couldn’t afford to travel to larger hospitals that offered more complex diagnostic exams and specialist care often experienced adverse health outcomes.
Earlier this month, Brider was among the first class of medical students to begin coursework at the Jonesboro, Arkansas, location of the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM).
By earning his DO degree and practicing in his home state, Brider hopes to contribute toward transforming the health care landscape in the state’s Upper Delta region. “I plan to stay and practice in Arkansas so I can help meet patients’ needs,” he says.
The new osteopathic medical school location will focus on improving access to care for patients in Jonesboro, where 10% of people under age 65 have a disability, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The state of Arkansas ranks among the lowest when it comes to the number of physicians per 100,000 people—a trend school officials hope to change.
“The osteopathic medical profession has a history of going where health care is really needed,” says Wolfgang Gilliar, DO, the dean of NYITCOM. “One of our goals is to combine hands-on care with technology by implementing telemedicine in areas where patients don’t typically have access to a physician.”
The school also aims to help alleviate the state’s physician shortage by producing doctors who will practice in the state upon completion of their training. When interviewing candidates for the new medical school, Shane Speights, DO, the associate dean of clinical affairs at NYITCOM in Jonesboro, sought individuals who wanted to provide care in rural areas.
As a native of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, a town of 10,000, Dr. Speights has a keen understanding of the state’s health care challenges. His goals for the new school include establishing clinical rotations at rural community hospitals and creating residency programs in underserved areas.
“Community hospitals provide great training opportunities, especially in primary care,” he says. “The osteopathic model of partnering with patients to provide care is just what the doctor ordered for this state and region.”
Students at the new Jonesboro location will become immersed in the surrounding community by participating in health fairs and encouraging high school and college students to explore careers in medicine through a mini medical school program.
“We want to show students that even if they come from a small town in Arkansas, they can go to medical school,” Dr. Speights says.
Community members will also be invited to mini medical school sessions focused on promoting healthy living and providing health education, he adds.