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“Osteopathic profession booming,” says MSU dean “Diverse experiences empower our entire curriculum"

MSU Today
Andy Amalfitano

Bill Beekman, vice-president and director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Michigan State University welcomes the dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at MSU, Dr. Andy Amalfitano, to MSU Today.

“The osteopathic profession is really booming right now,” Amalfitano tells Beekman. “It's the fastest growing of the health professions. One in five graduates of a medical school right now is graduating from a DO medical school. One of those is ours. And then one in four medical students entering medical school this year in the United States is entering an osteopathic medical school.

“And that primarily stems from our history and philosophical tenants of how we view individuals and our longstanding, over-130-year history of trying to preserve health and prevent illness rather than treat symptoms and send patients on their way. It's what we call a holistic view to anybody who seeks us out for care.

“We just celebrated our 50-year anniversary. We have about 7,000 alumni of which, at last count, about 65-70 percent, depending on how you want to count it, actually practice in the State of Michigan. And the majority of those graduates are in primary care, so pediatrics, family practice, and internal medicine. And you can add psychiatry and even emergency room medicine; many times our doctors are out in rural areas providing primary care.

“We've graduated more doctors, let's say since 2014, who self-identify as a minority, than any other medical school in the state, based on public data. We've got a long way to go on this, and I'm not saying that we've got an answer, but we pride ourselves in trying to meet that challenge. We're going to be stepping up to that in the coming years, and hopefully we'll be able to even broaden that capacity. We’re following the proverbial land grant mission of this university to serve the people of Michigan. I can't think of a better way than providing them physicians to help in that.”

Amalfitano tells Beekman about the college’s research foci and about his own work harnessing viruses to use them as potential treatments.

“I actually developed a virus that we inactivated. It's a common cold virus. We took the DNA out of that virus, and now we can engineer it to produce any protein or antigen we want. That's now been taken by several companies, who have been using it primarily as an immune vaccine platform.”

What’s on the horizon for the college?

“I think more of the same, because these are great things. We want to continue our focus on primary care and our students' desire to pursue that. A big goal is continuing to address this issue of lack of diversity in the medical profession. If you just look at the numbers across the nation, the number of physicians that come from under underrepresented minority populations is inadequate. It's a long-standing institutional problem. Racism has contributed to that. I want to make sure that our college is a welcoming place, a place where we can attract the best and brightest and a diverse student body. We get knowledge from that. Diverse experiences empower our entire curriculum.”

Amalfitano says he wants to expand the college’s research “and really step it up.

“With our access educationally to 40 hospitals, we think that through this network, we can start addressing community-wide medical issues in research. Things affecting the communities like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, the opioid crisis. Some of these things can only be answered by looking at large populations. The laboratory will not yield the answers that impact the entire society. We're looking at ways we can harness this educational network and craft it into a research network.

“We continue with our clinical activities in East Lansing. We continue with our affiliations with all of our hospital systems. I want to see those grow, and I want these hospitals to know that their future physicians are coming from our medical school. They have a vested interest in making sure we continue in this path, and I want them to understand that we appreciate their partnerships and going forward we want to facilitate that as well.”

MSU Today airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 on 105.1 FM, AM 870, and wkar.org. Find “MSU Today with Russ White” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.

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