In 2004, physicians and community leaders throughout the Northwest raised the awareness and resources to build a health sciences university, beginning with an osteopathic medical college. At the time of its founding in 2005, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine (PNWU-COM) was only the third medical school in the five-state Northwest region of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, and was the Northwest’s newest medical school in 60 years. PNWU-COM welcomed its first class of 70 medical school students into Butler-Haney Hall in 2008 and graduated them in 2012.
PNWU has built a Recruit-Educate-Return model to help address a significant shortage of health care professionals in the Northwest. PNWU emphasizes recruitment of students from rural or medically underserved locations and educates students in such areas with the intended outcome of graduates returning to practice in those or similar communities. As of October 2017, the COM has graduated 488 physicians and of those who have completed residency and reported their practice status, over 80 percent are in the Northwest, and 57 percent are practicing in rural or medically underserved areas.
Since opening its doors in 2008, PNWU has experienced tremendous growth. The Cadwell Student Center was added to the campus in 2011. Butler-Haney Hall, the flagship building, received a major addition in 2012 that includes a 400-person occupancy auditorium, faculty and staff offices, and a café area for students. The University Conference Center was completed in 2015; the Iron Horse Lodge was purchased in 2016; and additional land parcels have been purchased for future campus growth, increasing the campus from 43 to 70 acres. PNWU has also established 16 core rotation sites in communities around the Northwest. Hospitals and clinics in the region have welcomed PNWU-COM students, training them in the clinical settings where many will eventually practice.
Beyond offering the Osteopathic Medicine program (and in alignment with the PNWU 2014-2020 Strategic Plan), PNWU has engaged in collaborations with Washington State University (WSU) Schools of Pharmacy and Nursing, and Heritage University’s (HU) Physician Assistant (PA) and Master of Arts in Medical Science (MAMS) programs to provide interprofessional education to students from each program.