Heritage Foundation Gives Record Gift to OU-COM

The Osteopathic Heritage Foundations (OHA) used this year's  Ohio Osteopathic Symposium  to announce a $105 million gift to the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, representing the largest  largest private donation ever given to a college or university in Ohio. 

The funding will be used to help build a Diabetes/Endocrine Clinical Treatment and Research Center and a new Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI) on the Athens campus, as well as to establish an extension medical campus in Columbus to help produce more  primary care physicians.

“We have never before considered a grant or an award of this magnitude,” said Richard A. Vincent, President and CEO of the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations. “Given the urgent needs in health care, like an impending shortage of primary care physicians and a burgeoning epidemic of diabetes and related illnesses, the time was right and the choice of a recipient was clear.”

In recognition of the award, OU-COM will be named the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, pending approval by Ohio University’s Board of Trustees at its June meeting.  According to a Chronicle of Higher Education report published in March detailing cash gifts given to universities and colleges since 1968, the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations’ award is:

  • the largest gift given to a higher education institution in Ohio;

  • the fourth largest gift in 2011 to an institution of higher education in the U.S.;

  • the fourth largest gift ever given to a U.S. medical school; and

  • among the top 50 gifts ever given to a higher education institution in the U.S.

“This is a really remarkable gift, one that will be transformational for both Ohio University and the College of Osteopathic Medicine,” said Jack A. Brose, DO, Dean of OU-COM."

Since its inception in 1975, OU-COM has specialized in the recruitment, training and placement of primary care physicians, which includes family practice, general internal medicine and pediatrics. More than half of the medical school’s practicing graduates serve as primary care physicians and 60 percent stay in Ohio to practice. That makes OU-COM number one in Ohio, and near the top ten nationally in medical schools that graduate physicians who practice primary care, particularly in under-served rural areas.

To help increase the supply of of primary care physicians, OU-COM plans to use a portion of the OHF grant to expand its class size and build an extension campus in central Ohio. The location for the new site is still being finalized and  is slated to take its first incoming class by August, 2014. Once open, it will enroll 50 new students each year, in addition to the 140 who are admitted annually at the Athens campus. By 2019, the college anticipates grading 200 students annually.

On the Athens campus, this funding award will be used to build a new Diabetes/Endocrine Clinical Treatment and Research Center to attract prominent researchers to Athens. The new center will also serve diabetic patients better and enhance programs designed to prepare primary care physicians in diabetes management and research.Appalachian Ohio has the highest incidence of diabetes, obesity and related metabolic diseases in the state (11.3 percent), and rates that are much higher than the national average (7.5 percent).

John Kopchick, PhD, professor of molecular biology and the Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar, says the commitment by the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations is unique, in that it will impact patients immediately and support research leading to future treatments and cures. “To be able to increase the research capabilities, the clinical capabilities like this, it’s a game changer,” Dr. Kopchick said.

Part of the award from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations will help fund a new research facility for the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute (OMNI). For more than a quarter of a century, physicians and scientists at Ohio University have worked together to conduct groundbreaking, interdisciplinary research into these conditions, making it one of the longest running research entities at OU-COM.  These conditions are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. Despite the enormous related health care costs, however, funding for research to reduce the pain and suffering created by these conditions is less than two percent of the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

“Helping people address and live with chronic pain, low back pain, especially, is right in line with our mission,” said Mr. Vincent. “Our priorities are community health and quality of life, osteopathic medical care, and research,” he said. “All are components targeted by the OMNI project, and OU-COM as an institution.”

While the $105 million dollar award will make Ohio philanthropic history, the future benefits to the community at large and the transformational projects that it will support will have a dramatic effect on the future. Administrators at OU-COM and the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations hope this transformational gift will energize the University’s alumni, as well as other corporations and individuals to invest further in OU-COM.

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