The state of Idaho needs more doctors, plain and simple.
And any step taken to address that need is going to be a welcome development for St. Luke’s Health System.
All of which is why St. Luke’s is supporting the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM), Idaho’s first medical school. Classes began at the Meridian-based college in early September.
“We’re great partners for teaching, and our future depends on it and it has broad implications for our mission in Idaho,” said Dr. Mark Roberts, administrator of clinical research at St. Luke’s. “We’re the largest health system in the state, so we’re obliged to teach, whether that’s a respiratory therapy student, a nursing student, medical student – you name it, and we’re teaching more than 25 different disciplines.
“Why? Because that’s the only way for students to learn is to be exposed where patient care is happening.”
St. Luke’s has long trained medical students through the University of Washington’s five-state program, WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). ICOM students will not be in competition or replace the WWAMI students rotating with St. Luke’s in a wide variety of experiences, but will train alongside them.
“Our doctors are already quite extended with meeting patient-care demands and all the work that goes with it,” Dr. Roberts said. “There are limits to what can be expected, even with the altruistic motivations that our clinicians embrace.
“We’re literally going to have to grow new teaching to accommodate ICOM students.”
The number of doctors available to teach — and the hours those doctors can devote to teaching — is limited.
“We see our partnership with ICOM as leading to a solution to the new doctors we need to recruit — doctors who ultimately will practice in rural settings in our state,” Dr. Roberts said. “We’re just going to have to progressively grow. But we don’t want to over-promise. We’d rather over-deliver.”
St. Luke’s is dedicated to training the doctors of the future, and setting realistic expectations for program participation.
“Doctors at St. Luke’s are already trying to improve productivity, improve patient care, practice evidence-based medicine and use electronic medical records to optimize their workflow,” Dr. Roberts said. “Teaching a medical student takes time, and to do it well takes even more time.”
Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.