EDITORIAL: Campbell’s school of medicine is a real boost for region, state

Sep. 25, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Our proximity to the medical universities at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke, in nearby Durham, gives added prestige to the region in which we live. Never mind the top-flight undergraduate programs offered at both schools (in addition to some pretty good basketball and passable football). Having them nearby means great medical training is taking place in our own backyard, which helps ensure quality health care in this part of North Carolina and the rest of the state.

But the number of physicians practicing medicine and healing in our rural areas is still in short supply. Physicians are naturally attracted to areas of greater population because of the financial rewards that come from a larger practice and access to hospitals serving densely populated metropolitan areas. The fact that the new Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine, which has opened up down the road in Buies Creek, is focusing on serving the needs of rural communities is especially noteworthy.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, practitioners — such as the graduates of Campbell’s new school, the first of its kind in North Carolina — will focus on the promotion of good health and disease prevention, not just treating symptoms. Licensed physicians bring a “patient-centered, holistic, hands-on approach to diagnosing and treating illness and injury,” according to the organization. Bringing that kind of philosophy, and primary care physicians trained in that art, is critical to those who live distances from cities and from the kind of abundant health care we have access to right here in central North Carolina.

The timing of the school's opening is critical. The association points out that by the year 2020, the gap between the number of practicing physicians in the United States and the demand will range between 50,000 and 100,000. Gov. Pat McCrory, who attended the dedication of the Leon Levine Hall of Medical Science last Thursday, talked about the need to “convince doctors to make their homes in rural North Carolina…”

The school's dean, John Kauffman, said at the dedication that at least 20 counties in North Carolina don't have a surgeon or OB/GYN, adding that we’re in the bottom half of states in both total doctors and primary care doctors per capita.

Gov. McCrory pointed out as well that rising insurance costs and massive uncertainty surrounding programs like Obamacare add to the dilemma of health care’s future.

Fortunately, leaders at Campbell University had the foresight to plan ahead. It should make all of us feel a little better.