Communication Home

OU-COM first in state for producing rural physicians

Study ranks Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine 11th nationwide 

The Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM) was ranked as one of the top U.S. medical schools for graduating physicians who choose to practice in rural areas. 

In the study, published in the April issue of Academic Medicine, OU-COM tied for 11th place among all medical schools in the country granting M.D. or D.O. degrees. The greatest percentages of OU-COM alumni practicing in rural areas graduated between 1988 and 1997.

According to the study, about 21 percent of OU-COM alumni were providing medical services in rural areas during 2005, the year the data was collected.

“This study shows that OU-COM is the number one medical school in Ohio producing physicians who work in rural areas,” said Dean Jack Brose, D.O. “We are fulfilling our mission of producing not only primary care physicians, who are the most-needed physicians across the country, but also physicians who practice in areas where they are needed the most.”

The article, written by a team from the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine in Seattle, examined the training of the U.S. rural physician workforce to better understand the disparities between numbers of rural and urban physicians.

A previous study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1992 identified the allopathic medical schools that produced the most rural physicians. The 1992 study did not include colleges of osteopathic medicine, but it did find that a small subset of the nation’s medical schools produced the majority of rural physicians. 

The UW study found that six of the top 16 colleges – two tied in fourth place and three, including OU-COM, tied at 11th – were colleges of osteopathic medicine. The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine ranked number one with 41 percent.  

“The medical schools that produced the highest percentage of rural physicians placed between 21 and 36 percent of their graduates in rural areas,” the UW authors reported. “However, several D.O. degree-granting schools were identified that contributed relatively high percentages of rural physicians. Osteopathic physicians are significantly more likely to enter rural practice.” 

The UW study showed that 18 percent of all osteopathic medical school graduates from the years surveyed practiced in rural areas, compared to 11 percent of graduates from allopathic medical schools.

Of the physicians who practiced in rural areas, nearly 42 percent practiced in the primary care fields of family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics. 

According to OU-COM’s more recent statistics, of the college’s 2,565 total graduates, 44 percent work in rural and underserved communities of fewer than 50,000 residents. About 11 percent of the total number of graduates from the college practice in Appalachia Ohio. Approximately 54 percent of the college’s graduates serve as primary care providers. Of those, 37 percent practice in family medicine, and 16 percent are currently either in internal medicine or pediatrics.

Christopher Simpson, D.O., chairman of OU-COM’s Department of Family Medicine, noted that the college places great emphasis on family medicine and its important role and need in rural areas. “Our dean is a strong supporter of family medicine. With his help and support, the college has encouraged early rural experience and insists that all third and fourth year students have an extended family medicine experience,” he said. 

Brose noted that those figures reflect the success of the college in meeting its mission, mandated by the Ohio General Assembly, to serve the health needs of people within the Appalachian region and other underserved populations, and to encourage the practice of family medicine.

“OU-COM values family medicine and service in rural and underserved areas,” Simpson said. “The admission committee actively recruits individuals from rural areas that are more likely to return to rural areas.” 

The study also found that medical school graduates who enter a residency in a rural area are more likely to remain in a rural area to practice, and that more women than men practice in rural areas. 

“The increasing proportion of female rural physicians is more likely attributable to the increasing number of female medical school graduates coupled with a decline in the percentage of male physicians entering rural practice,” the report’s authors stated.

OU-COM’s own statistics bear out this claim – during the past four years, the percentage of women entering the college has averaged 53.5 percent.  

The article, “Which medical schools produce rural physicians? A 15-year update,” authored by Frederick Chen, M.D., M.P.H.; Meredith Fordyce, Ph.D.; Steve Andes, Ph.D.; and Gary Hart, Ph.D., appears in the April issue of Academic Medicine, vol. 85, no. 4.  

To read the article, go to:


  Office of Communication
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
210 Irvine Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701
Tel: 740-593-2346 FAX: 740-593-0343
Copyright Ohio University (Home)
Last updated: 01/28/2016