EKU Launches Feasibility Study for a College of Osteopathic Medicine

Published on January 23, 2024

By Sarah Bashford and Sarah Baker

Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) is seeking vendors to complete a feasibility study to analyze if a public College of Osteopathic Medicine is needed in the Commonwealth. As the School of Opportunity, EKU is committed to meeting the rising health care needs in the state by seeking to introduce a new and cost-effective medical education program in Kentucky.

The American Osteopathic Association describes the practice of osteopathic medicine as considering the whole person: mind, body and spirit. Osteopathic physicians provide full-spectrum care for millions of patients seeking a holistic approach to managing their health. 

“It is our commitment to our students and the Commonwealth to continuously analyze the market and innovate to meet the needs of our community and beyond,” said EKU President David McFaddin. “Shortages in the healthcare workforce, especially recognized in eastern Kentucky and rural parts of the state, spurred us to ask how EKU can help fill these workforce gaps. The initiation of the feasibility study marks the first step in comprehending both the imperative need for the program and EKU's capacity to deliver an exceptional Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. If this is a demonstrated need, EKU is willing and ready to serve Kentucky’s workforce in this way.”

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, only 47.7% of Kentucky’s need for primary care health professionals is met. Nearly all of the state's 120 counties contain facilities designated as health professional shortage areas for primary care. EKU anticipates that by offering a D.O. degree, the number of shortage areas throughout the Commonwealth may be reduced. 

“One of the critical barriers to students entering the medical field is cost. Students want degree options that give them a quality education at an affordable rate,” said McFaddin. “It is our hope that the feasibility study lays out a realistic financial model that enables us to bring another affordable medical degree to the Commonwealth.”  

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average medical school debt was more than $200,000 for 2022 graduates. EKU has long been committed to breaking the financial barriers that stand in the way of student success. The university will continue to provide accessible and affordable options for students. 

To initiate the feasibility study, EKU has issued a request for proposal (RFP), seeking to identify an agency that can complete the analysis and make a recommendation. Once the RFP window is closed, a review committee will determine the selected agency. EKU’s goal is to conduct the study in the summer of 2024. The RFP Review Committee consists of the following EKU staff and faculty: 

  • Colleen Chaney, Chief of Staff and Chief Communications Officer
  • Dr. Daniel Czech, Dean of the College of Health Sciences
  • Dr. Brigette Holleran, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing
  • Dr. Dana Howell, Department Chair and Foundation Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy
  • Dr. Bethany Miller, Executive Director, Institutional Effectiveness and Research
  • Dr. Erin Stevenson, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work
  • Dr. Dustin Wygant, Executive Director of Integrated Behavioral Health

The university will be selecting subcommittee members for the proposed D.O. school from both inside and outside of the EKU community to serve on the finance, academic affairs, community and healthcare industry task forces once the RFP has been completed. The members of each subcommittee will be announced after EKU has evaluated the results of the RFP.

EKU has fueled the Commonwealth’s healthcare system for more than 60 years with expert graduates from programs including biomedical sciences, nursing, psychology, occupational therapy, public health, exercise and sport science, dietetics/food nutrition and recreational therapy.

“We are excited for the possibility of offering more opportunities to serve the Commonwealth,” said McFaddin. “We put more Kentuckians to work in the state than any other Kentucky university. Students come to EKU from across the state, and many go back to work in their hometowns. Our students actively contribute to the betterment of our communities through their impactful careers.”

Learn more about this potential opportunity for EKU at go.eku.edu/DO.