Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine’s First Midwest Campus Opens at Mercy Jefferson

June 24, 2024

With the proclamation of “Physicians of Tomorrow Day” by Jefferson County Executive Dennis Gannon, the first cohort of Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) students at Mercy Hospital Jefferson began their first clinical rotation year.

LECOM is the nation’s largest medical college. Its new regional campus at Mercy Jefferson is its first Midwest location.

Mercy doctor's coat Jim Ramsey, Mercy Jefferson manager of spiritual care, blesses the hands of medical students.

Mercy Jefferson hosted a blessing of the hands and opening celebration Friday, June 21, to welcome 12 incoming third-year students who will begin their first clinical rotations at the new regional campus for the 2024-25 school year. Students started their first rotation on Monday, June 24.

While at a different campus for her third year of studies, Olivia Cossins, a LECOM student from Wildwood, Missouri, learned of the new Mercy Jefferson campus and requested a transfer. She also is attending the LECOM regional campus at Mercy Jefferson as the only fourth-year student for the upcoming school year.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for me to be closer to home and get the medical education I’m seeking from LECOM,” Cossins said, a Eureka High School grad. “LECOM is such a great fit for so many of us, I’m excited that it will be more accessible to those of us in the Midwest.”

Mercy doctor's coat Dan Eckenfels (left), Mercy Jefferson community president, and Dr. Karthik Iyer (center), Mercy Jefferson chief medical officer and LECOM regional dean, accept the proclamation for "Physicians of Tomorrow Day" from Jefferson County Executive Dennis Gannon (right).

The addition of LECOM to the Jefferson County community provides many great opportunities, according to Gannon.

“This is a tremendous addition for our county and all our residents,” Gannon said. “It’s an educational opportunity for residents, especially those who take advantage of their Early Acceptance Program. It will draw students seeking advanced degrees, helping grow our population. It will help us retain and add physicians who want the opportunity to serve as faculty and draw additional physicians who choose to stay here to serve our county after completing their medical education. There are so many positives that will come from having LECOM here.”

Through the Early Acceptance program, LECOM and Mercy will team with local high schools and colleges to identify potential medical school candidates and guide them in earning an advanced degree.

“Fewer than 7% of Jefferson Country residents have earned a master’s degree or higher,” said Dr. Karthik Iyer, Mercy Jefferson chief medical officer, who will serve as LECOM regional dean. “We see a tremendous opportunity to grow that number by removing potential barriers and improving access to higher education.”

LECOM seeks to assist applicants who are the first in their family to enter higher education. It offers one of the lowest tuition fees in the nation for private medical colleges and provides financial aid to 89% of its students.

In addition to choosing Mercy Jefferson for its shared mission and values, LECOM was intentional in seeking out the non-urban setting. The more rural a community is, the more support it needs to sustain health care resources.

About 70% of LECOM graduates become primary care physicians, a much-needed area of expertise as estimates show a nationwide shortage of 122,000 primary care physicians by 2032. Mercy prioritizes increasing the number of primary care physicians to ensure patients have the access they need to maintain good health and prevent the necessity for hospital care, which is particularly important in communities with fewer health care options.

“Medical students often grow to love the communities where they complete their training. After all, they’ll be here for two years of training,” said Dr. Michael Rowane, LECOM associate dean of clinical education. “Frequently, once these students become doctors, they choose to stay in the community.”

That includes Cossins, who shared during the opening celebration her plans to become a family medicine physician and remain in the region.

In addition to preparing students to become physicians, LECOM educates future pharmacists, dentists and podiatrists. LECOM and Mercy plan to grow the regional campus over the years to as many as 72 medical students.

Mercy doctor's coat