On the jump you’ll find a news release on the hiring of a consultant for what the headline says is a “feasibility study” for a school of osteopathic medicine at Arkansas State University.

The news release provides ample evidence that the question is not “if” a school will be built, only what it will cost and who will pay.

When Chancellor Tim Hudson says, “Arkansas State has a history of looking at societal needs and addressing them through our academic programs,” you begin to get the feeling ASU has predetermined the need. When he says “our goal is to advance osteopathic medicine” you know where the study has been pre-determined to lead.

ASU promises to work with the medical community in the process. I presume that would include talking with the nominal medical experts at UAMS, which has been silent to date on the project, but who, I believe, harbor misgivings. Past research at UAMS didn’t include a school of osteopathy on the state’s priority health needs. Sure, competition is one issue. With the state squeezing ever more support from higher education, concerns exist about new dollars for a new startup medical school at ASU.

When ASU talks about a public-private partnership, the key question is the tab for the public. In many such partnerships in Arkansas, the formula has meant the public put up the investment capital and a private interest reaped the dividends. That’s not a partnership.

JONESBORO. – Arkansas State University took another step to determine the viability of an osteopathic medical school with the selection of Tripp Umbach to conduct a formal feasibility study.

One of the leading national firms in healthcare and economic development consulting, Tripp Umbach clients in the medical education field include Michigan State University, Indiana University School of Medicine and University of Georgia/Medical College of Georgia. The Tripp Umbach team begins an intensive survey of the practicality and financial impacts for a doctor of osteopathy program at A-State in September.

“Arkansas State has a history of looking at societal needs and addressing them through our academic programs,” said Dr. Tim Hudson, chancellor of Arkansas State University.

The study received a major boost last week when the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) became a supporter in Arkansas State’s process. The $25,000 investment from DRA will help cover the costs of the Tripp Umbach study.

“Our goal is to advance osteopathic medicine and serve our state,” Hudson said. “We know that D.O. schools can have a major impact. They elevate primary health care across a region, produce tremendous economic impact on communities and raise the prestige level of associated universities.”

Hudson announced in June that A-State would explore public-private partnerships to establish an osteopathic medical school. ASU System President Charles L. Welch authorized Hudson to work with local leaders and representatives of existing osteopathic medical schools on the concept.

Under the guidance of Dr. Jason Penry, vice chancellor for university advancement, this study will inform the Board of Trustees on several key factors of the ultimate decision to authorize the program during this academic year.

“We have asked Tripp Umbach to give us specifics in this process,” Penry said. “They will help us determine the best practices in funding models, conduct an analysis of the clinical capacity, and evaluate potential partnerships.”

Earlier this summer, A-State issued a request for proposal to organizations to perform the D.O. impact study resulting in Tripp Umbach’s response. The scope of the proposal included elements that could be repurposed into formal study that the national organization for accreditation, the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), requires.

The combination of the Tripp Umbach study along with the continued input of the regional and state medical communities are vital to the future of the plan. Currently there is no osteopathic school in Arkansas.

“We want to make an informed decision,” Hudson said. “Along with selecting a feasibility study partner we have also made sure to include doctors of osteopathy here in Arkansas, leading members of professional medical community across the state and the leadership of our local and regional medical facilities in our discussions.”

Hudson said he expects to make a recommendation on next steps in the process, based on feedback from the formal study, to Welch and the ASU Board of Trustees before the end of the year.