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Dean says College of Osteopathic Medicine is a place where the science and art of medicine meet

Laura Probyn
Russ White, Andrea Amalfitano

Dr. Andrea Amalfitano is the dean of Michigan State University’s prestigious College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“It's humbling and also thrilling at the same time to know that the faculty and staff of the college have enough confidence in me to proceed forward as the permanent dean,” says Amalfitano. “The other faculty and staff at the university and other deans have been tremendously supportive. Our alumni, our external partners, the Michigan Osteopathic Association, and a number of groups outside of the college all came together. I feel like I have the support of thousands as we go forward to produce the best physicians in the country.”

Amalfitano says osteopathic medicine is an approximately 130 year old profession. It's unique to the United States. But in many ways it's extremely progressive. One in five doctors graduating from a medical school right now is from an osteopathic medical school. One in four students entering medical school right now is entering an osteopathic medical school.

“Our profession is growing in leaps and bounds. A lot of that has to do with the tenets of what we pursue as physicians. I like to speak to a notion about our college being a place where the science of medicine has not forgotten the art of medicine. I think those words resonate with today's students.

“We teach everything that needs to be known about contemporary health and wellness and diseases. We understand that a disease is not just a symptom. This is a patient. This is a patient who has a family. A family that interacts with the community. And as physicians in the osteopathic profession, we strive to teach that at every opportunity we can. We just do not reduce persons down to a symptom and treat that and move on.

“I'm not saying that that's exclusive to the osteopathic profession. We have great physician colleagues. But you can be rest assured that if you're in an osteopathic medical school that you will be guaranteed that this will be front and center every day.”

Amalfitano says the mission of the college is simple: to graduate the best and brightest physicians for today's medicine.

“Seventy percent of our graduates stay in the state of Michigan to do their specialty training. And then 70 percent to 80 percent of our graduates actually stay in the state of Michigan and practice. They want to go back to the communities they came from and bring that knowledge back. Our mission is to foster that.”

Amalfitano describes areas of research excellence in the college and his own research that has affected state policy. He talks about how the curriculum is evolving to meet patients’ needs and details his short and long term goals for the college.

“Short term what we constantly do is address the curriculum and the student experience. I think that's always a top priority and certainly is mine. I view it as a sacred trust that our college needs to produce the best physicians for the citizens and the nation.

“We also want to increase the research experiences of more students in our college. I'm trying to increase the time that students can dedicate during their time in medical school to research if they desire that path. And then we also want to improve the outreach and volunteer abilities of our students to participate in.

“Long term, we need to focus on the fact that medicine is changing rapidly. Hospital systems are merging and becoming big monoliths. How does today's contemporary medical school graduate fit into that? How do they not lose their skills in being patient centered while you've got all these outside forces like insurance, government, and corporate structures pushing on the doctor patient relationship? Those are issues that are evolving and I think long term we have to keep an eye on that. How is medicine going to be different 10 years from now and how do we prepare today's medical school incoming class for that reality downstream? That's something that we really are working on to address.”

As for challenges and opportunities ahead?

“Well, challenges are this notion that medicine is changing. The doctor patient relationship is not what it used to be. We have a lot of outside forces that want to impose what I think are genuine concerns. We have cost constraints. The biggest cost on the economy right now is healthcare. I think those are the challenges. How do we integrate into that fabric? We have a shortage of physicians. How do we develop physicians and provide train them in a manner that aligns well with what the country and the world needs? That is a big challenge that we constantly try and address.

“Diversity is a challenge, too, not only for our college but the medical profession nationally. How do we address the fact that the physicians that we've been graduating from our medical schools nationally do not reflect the demographic populations that they're going to go and serve?

“Our college, we do pretty well, but we can do much better. We want to increase the diversity of the student body because a diverse student body brings all kinds of perspectives to the entire medical school that we can all benefit from and learn from and, to be quite frank, take advantage of so that we can deliver even better care. 

“We are looking to provide increased numbers of scholarships to our students, in particular, out of state students who we think we can bring a more diverse class to the college. And we also already know that if we can draw those students, they actually will stay in the state of Michigan and bring their unique skills to the entire state. That is a challenge and that is one that we don't have a quick answer for but we need to address now.”

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870.

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