OPTI-mizing residency opportunities

It’s ironic that when the nation anticipates a shortage of physicians, the number of residency positions available to train them is not keeping up with the increasing number of medical students graduating each year. DMU is working to remedy that: This summer, it created the HEARTland Network, an Osteopathic Postdoctoral Training Institute (OPTI) for residency training in osteopathic specialties.

An OPTI is a consortium consisting of a college of osteopathic medicine and graduate teaching hospitals and programs. Since 1999, all osteopathic medical training programs are required by the American Osteopathic Association to be OPTI members. DMU had been a member of the Osteopathic Postdoctoral Training Institute of Kirksville (OPTIK), but the new network will enhance residency training in Iowa and contiguous states, says David Plundo, D.O.’85, FACOFP, FAODME, chief academic officer of the HEARTland Network.

“The HEARTland OPTI provides a comprehensive, seamless model of education for physician training, from colleges of osteopathic medicine through graduate medical education programs and beyond,” adds Plundo, who is also associate dean of medical education and external affairs, College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The HEARTland Network, one of 19 OPTIs in the country, to date has nine members in addition to DMU, including hospitals and family medicine programs at the University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin.

In addition to promoting excellence in education and training for osteopathic medicine students, interns and residents, the network will foster faculty development and collaborative research among member organizations. The HEARTland Network also has a connection through DMU to Iowa’s Area Health Education Centers, or AHECs, which work to recruit, train and retain a health professions workforce committed to the underserved – starting with students in grade school.

“The network is the continuation of the pipeline, starting with kindergarten through 12th-grade students with AHECs and following through residency and, we hope, employment in Iowa and its rural areas,” Plundo says. “It’s what’s best for the state and the University.”

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