Marian to delay med school opening until fall 2013

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Marian University will delay the opening of its college of osteopathic medicine until fall of 2013—one year later than originally planned.

A spokeswoman for the university said the original date was “aggressive” and has proved to be unworkable as Marian launches only the second medical school in Indiana.

“That was our best-case scenario,” said Andrea Fagan, Marian’s director of marketing communications. “We had some really, really high expectations.”

The main setback came in December when the accrediting commission of the American Osteopathic Association requested that Marian put the money it has raised to fund the school in a different kind of escrow fund format than Marian had done. That delayed the accreditation process until the commission's next meeting, which is this month.

Marian must obtain at least provisional accreditation before it can begin recruiting students—so it decided to wait another year to make sure it gets the best students it can.

“We decided that we would get a much higher quantity of the students we wanted to attract,” said Dr. Paul Evans, dean of Marian’s college of osteopathic medicine. “We felt we would have more time to get the word out.”

The decision to wait an extra year was made by Marian trustees in March, according to an e-mail sent by Marian President Dan Elsener and obtained by IBJ.

“This decision creates a window of opportunity for us to enhance the quality of the [medical school] by developing a strong curriculum that meets the educational needs of 21st century physicians; recruiting excellent faculty, staff, and students; and raising more funds,” Elsenser wrote.

Marian has raised $81 million toward the $100 million project, which includes constructing a building to house both the medical school and Marian’s existing nursing school. Marian will also need money to buy the necessary technological equipment, fund student scholarships and endowed chairs for some professors.

Marian announced plans for the school in January 2010 after receiving a $30 million gift from an anonymous donor and being chosen by the Indiana Osteopathic Association, which had long wanted to start a medical school in Indianapolis.

Even at that time, Elsener said the opening might slip by a year, to 2013.

The differences between doctors of osteopathy, or DOs, and doctors of medicine, or MDs, are subtle. Doctors of osteopathy receive the same training as doctors of medicine, but they go through extra training on the muscular and skeletal systems and use their hands to move muscles and joints to diagnose, treat or even prevent illness and injury.

Roughly two-thirds of DOs go into primary care, the area where there is currently a shortage of physicians, especially in rural and inner-city areas. Among graduates of the Indiana University School of Medicine, about one in four go into primary care.

For much of the 20th century, DOs were barred from practicing at “mainstream” hospitals. Such animosity has lessened considerably. Marian has already formed partnerships with St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital and Community Health Network as well as Indianapolis’ only osteoapathic hospital, Westview.

The next step in the school’s development is a hearing before the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation. Then Marian expects to stage a groundbreaking for the college’s building this summer.

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