Rowan Medicine: M.D. and D.O.

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University medical schools to help address physician shortage.

Following a national trend, by 2020 New Jersey is projected to be short on physicians as it grows older and more populous, with a greater need for medical care than ever.

In addition to growing and aging, the state is expected to have more of its residents coverage by health insurance as required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act, a benefit that’s likely to further test a statewide medical system projected to have some 3,000 fewer physicians than needed in less than a decade.

On the upside, Rowan is uniquely positioned to help address the projected need. Starting July 1, the University will operate two of the state’s four medical schools and will begin producing not only physicians but a spectrum of medical professionals. It becomes just the second university in the nation, after Michigan State, to offer both M.D.- and D.O.-granting medical programs.

 

Two Medical Schools

Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU), which welcomed its first class of 50 students in August 2012, will grow each incoming class by 10 students per year until it reaches a goal of 100 students per class, 400 for the school.

Based in Camden, CMSRU is housed in an all new $139 million medical tower and shares a campus with Cooper University Hospital, one of the region’s best. The school was founded specifically to address southern New Jersey’s medical needs, from urban care to rural outreach.

The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOM), which joins Rowan July 1 as directed by last summer’s New Jersey Medical and Health Science Education Restructuring Act, was founded nearly 40 years ago as southern New Jersey’s then-only four-year medical school and still the state’s only school of osteopathic medicine.

This year SOM boasts 162 students in its first-year class having expanded by 50 percent in the last few years.   It has a long record of research and contains several centers of excellence including geriatrics, child abuse and neglect, and a celebrated neuro-musculoskeletal institute. Affiliated with seven hospital systems, its principal partner is Kennedy University Hospital, also one of the region’s best.

The restructuring act signed by Gov. Chris Christie last August was designed to head off the impending physician shortage, to improve healthcare throughout N.J., and to spur economic development. Medical schools do this by not only producing jobs within them but by attracting a variety of business activity.

In addition to moving SOM to Rowan from U.M.D.N.J. (which the state is disbanding), the act designates Rowan the state’s second comprehensive public research university, moves the remaining assets of U.M.D.N.J. to Rutgers (aside from University Hospital in Newark) and requires Rowan and Rutgers-Camden to form a College of Health Sciences in the City of Camden.

 

M.D./D.O.

Students at CMSRU will earn Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degrees. Students at SOM earn Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degrees.

Though the training is similar – graduates of either program may specialize in any field of medicine – osteopathic doctors have traditionally taken a greater whole–body approach to diagnosis and treatment. Roughly half of osteopathic medical doctors practice primary care and their course work includes the study of manipulative medicine.

“Primary care is the gatekeeper of healthcare,” said Dr. Thomas Cavalieri, SOM’s dean. “One of the tenets of osteopathic medicine is to focus on maintaining health.”

That tenet, he said, will prove especially useful in the coming years as more Americans obtain health insurance and become less reliant on costly emergency room visits for primary care.

Dr. Cavalieri, a nationally-renowned geriatrician, said about half of SOM’s graduates enter the primary care fields of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and OB/GYN, and about half choose more specialized practices like cardiology, critical care, surgery, or pulmonology.

Dr. Paul Katz, founding dean of CMSRU, said a great challenge for his school will also be in meeting the rising demand for physicians and other healthcare providers.

Founded with an emphasis on urban care and serving the people of Camden, he said CMSRU will serve the entire region, especially pockets of medically underserved – from migrant workers to the working poor – who need care now, long in advance of the projected physician shortage.

Board certified in rheumatology and internal medicine, Dr. Katz said a goal for CMSRU will be to not only train physicians but physician-leaders and other medical providers.

“Leadership means taking an active role, not just in your hospital but in your community,” Dr. Katz said.

He said the clean slate of an all-new medical school is enabling CMSRU to design programs that fit the times and to change the way medical education is delivered.

Like Dr. Cavalieri, Dr. Katz believes certain aspects of care can complement direct doctor-patient visits and help ease the projected physician shortage. These could include various team care approaches, primary care treatments by nurse practitioners, even “telemedicine” – a monitoring of blood sugar, blood pressure and other vital statistics remotely – with the patient not coming to the office.

“The medical community needs to make smart use of technology,” Dr. Katz said. “We’re teaching our students to use technology wisely so it’s high-tech and high touch. We use simulations, small group learning, and focus on critical thinking and problem solving.”

 

The Rowan umbrella

With some differences in curricula, culture, and accrediting organizations, doctors Cavalieri and Katz said it’s too soon to say how much SOM and CMSRU will intersect. For now they know that collaboration in certain areas, such as sharing the cost of an electronic medical library, could make sense.

Open for less than a year, CMSRU is presently focused on developing curriculum, recruitment and accreditation but administrators at both CMSRU and SOM see great potential in working with Rowan, particularly as it matures as a research university.

Rowan plans to focus research on the fields of science, technology, engineering, medicine and business – to encourage the development of commercially viable products – and is ideally suited to realize its promise as a region-wide high-technology R&D hub.

“We see the intersection of science, technology, engineering, medicine and business at Rowan to have unlimited potential,” said President Ali Houshmand. “Coupled with the South Jersey Technology Park at Rowan, our excellence in business, engineering and, now, two complementary medical schools, the horizon is limitless.”

Dr. Houshmand, who holds a Ph.D. in industrial and operations engineering, said the timing of CMSRU’s opening, SOM joining Rowan, and the nationwide economic upturn couldn’t be better.

“Are there challenges ahead? Absolutely,” Dr. Houshmand said. “But Rowan University is uniquely qualified to meet them. It’s staggering to see how much Rowan has changed in just a few years but every day our infrastructure grows better and stronger. Every day we become more of an anchor and an economic engine for southern New Jersey.”

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