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The Cedar City Office of Economic Development is beginning the groundwork to establish a school of osteopathic medicine in Cedar City. This effort will create high-value, professional jobs in southern Utah, attract additional resources and research, and develop rural health care opportunities. Southern Utah College of Osteopathic Medicine, or SUCOM as it will be known, is a joint effort of community leaders, business leaders, educators, health professionals and interested citizens and students.
Southern Utah has been impacted in recent years with rapid population growth that has exceeded Utah’s ability to provide adequate supplies of rural and primary care physicians for the region’s needs. Each year more than 400 students leave Utah to attend medical and osteopathic schools elsewhere in the country. Many of those students never return to Utah to practice, since studies show that new physicians tend to practice close to where they trained.
The Cedar City Office of Economic Development is consulting with Colorado-based Rocky Vista University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (RVUCOM). RVUCOM is a fully accredited, private College of Osteopathic Medicine with the regional mission of providing primary care physicians for the Intermountain West. Rocky Vista matriculated its first class in August of 2008 and that inaugural class just graduated in May of 2012. The College of Osteopathic Medicine has quickly established an excellent academic record in the world of medical education and has successfully placed all of its graduates into quality training programs throughout the nation. The College is presently affiliated with several Utah hospital systems that provide clinical education for some of its Utah students.
Rocky Vista University has established an early-acceptance agreement with Southern Utah University that channels qualified SUU students into the Colorado school for their first two years of medical training. Officials at RVU initiated the program because of the large number of quality applicants they were interviewing from the SUU campus each year. Many of these students will now be able to plan much earlier than usual to return to Utah for clinical rotations. It is anticipated that the establishment of a Southern Utah College of Osteopathic Medicine will mean even more students will be able to receive all four years of training in Utah.
Rocky Vista University, in conjunction with the Southern Utah Area Health Education Center (AHEC), has established clinical placement offices in Cedar City and St. George for training 3rd and 4th year medical students. They are also cultivating future residencies in the area that will augment the effectiveness of the early-acceptance program, and assure graduates will remain in Utah to practice.
The Cedar City Office of Economic Development, along with an established community advocacy group, has been working on this project for the past 18 months. Given the need for Doctors and the great public interest in providing more medical services for the area, the task force is confident that this project will lead to economic development opportunities and increased primary care physicians in southern Utah.