(KMTR) -- A celebration in Lebanon
on Saturday, as a new medical school opens its doors, hoping to give the city an economic jolt and help Oregon
out of a physician shortage.
Western University of Health Sciences opened its new “COMP Northwest” (College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific) medical school Saturday, July 30th, 2011, off Highway 20 and Mullins Drive in Lebanon.
Until now, medical students who wanted to stay in Oregon had to go to Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland. Western University of Health Sciences’ new medical school is only the second in Oregon.
“This is the first new medical education program in our state in over a century, and it will help improve health care deliver throughout the state of Oregon,” said Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber.
Saturday’s ceremony honored the first 107 students to enroll in the college. Classes begin for students on August 8th, 2011. The college will continue to add about 100 students each year, with a capacity of around 400 students.
Students are hoping to make a difference in Oregon’s health care system, one of the most understaffed in the nation. Oregon ranks 43 out of 46 states with medical colleges for the amount of medical students per 100,000 people.
Only 17% of doctors practicing in Oregon are from Oregon. Western University of Health Sciences says the lack of medical colleges in Oregon has lead to a difficulty in getting medical professionals to practice in the state’s rural communities. The college is hoping to change that, which is part of the reason why it was sited in Lebanon.
“We have the opportunity today here in the state of Oregon, with your help and your involvement, to do something no other state has done,” said Gov. Kitzhaber.
“To do something that's eluded our nation for decades: to create a health care system that actually improves the health of the population, at a cost that we can afford,” said Gov. Kitzhaber.
In the making of the school, education and future possibilities for students, Western University of Health Sciences has teamed up with Samaritan Health Services, the major health care provider in Corvallis, Albany, Lebanon, the Mid-Willamette Valley and the Central Oregon Coast.
Through the partnership, COMP Northwest will likely have neighbors soon surrounding the empty fields it is currently in on the Samaritan Health Services campus. A future VA veteran’s retirement home is already in the works for the area, there are also plans to put a Central Willamette Credit Union branch, a hotel, an events center, an urgent care facility and more buildings.