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Throughout history, legacy creating innovative decisions have distinguished between leader and follower; between insight and apathy; and ultimately, between success and failure. Such is the case with the history that has come to form the heritage of the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM).

LECOM stands solidly in its second decade of educating students in practices espoused by Andrew Taylor Still, the father of osteopathic medicine, whose osteopathic principles and mission of whole body care have been widened by LECOM to encompass a comprehensive view and vision — that being: the community is our campus. LECOM graduates practice medicine, pharmacy, and now, dentistry, across the United States and around the world, using the most advanced principles based upon the soundest aspects of medical training.

With an ever-present commitment to quality education at affordable cost and with the constant goal of patient-centered care and community betterment, the leadership at LECOM hold fast to its core principle: that when mind, body, and spirit come together, the impossible becomes possible.

From an inaugural class of fewer than 40 Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) students, LECOM has grown to become the largest medical school in the nation. With more than 2,200 medical students across three campuses and a total enrollment of nearly 3,600 students, its programs include the Doctor of Pharmacy and Dental Medicine degrees, as well as master's degree offerings in biomedical sciences, medical education, and health services administration. The College also offers a rigorous, one-year, Post Baccalaureate program that assists students to prepare for medical, pharmacy, or dental school.

The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine is the epicenter of the only education complex in the country offering an osteopathic academic health center comprised of a growing Erie campus, an amalgam of medical education and clinical care options; all linked seamlessly to its affiliated Millcreek Community Hospital and to the clinical practices of LECOM known as the Medical Associates of Erie. [See health care section.]

LECOM recognizes that students have varying learning styles. To address the individual learning needs of the scholar, the College of Medicine offers five distinct pathways: Lecture-Discussion, Problem-Based Learning, Directed Study, Primary Care Scholars, and Accelerated Physician Assistant. The last two programs are among only a handful of three-year medical degree offerings in the country. Regardless of the pathway chosen by the student, each scholar is guided by the principles of osteopathic medicine, including an emphasis upon the body as an integrated unit, capable of self-healing.

Among private medical colleges, LECOM is proud to proclaim the second lowest tuition in the United States. The College ranks among the leaders nationally in the graduation of primary care physicians, and it maintains more than 160 core clinical rotation sites throughout rural and underserved communities. More than 700 LECOM osteopathic medicine graduates are practicing or training in western Pennsylvania, with approximately 43% of those health care professionals living in rural counties near Erie and Pittsburgh. In April of 2013, LECOM affirmed its abiding commitment to provide care where it is most needed by forming a strategic partnership with Highmark that will allocate $500,000 to scholarships for students who choose primary care practices in medically underserved areas.

Andrew Taylor Still once said, “Let us not be governed today by what we did yesterday, nor tomorrow, by what we do today; for day by day, we must show progress.” This tenet has served LECOM well as a visionary exemplar with its focus set upon the future and upon ways in which to serve those in need. Within ten years of the founding of LECOM, the School of Pharmacy welcomed its first class in September of 2002. True to its commitment to innovation and to student-centered education, LECOM offers one of the few accelerated, three-year Doctor of Pharmacy programs in the country.

In 2004, LECOM established a branch campus in Bradenton, Fla., where students can pursue the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and Doctor of Pharmacy degrees in addition to the Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. The School of Dental Medicine houses an academic learning center for students along with state-of-the art patient clinics available to the public. The students complete their dental training at community-based clinics where the greatest need for dental care occurs.

In 2009, LECOM continued its expansion to meet local health needs through a partnership with Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa. The June, 2013 graduation of the inaugural class of nearly 100 Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine students from LECOM at Seton Hill represented another milestone in the venerable history of LECOM.

Further expansion extended to the acquisition of the Lord Corporation Property in Erie as the main campus more than doubled in size, growing from a single structure to eight buildings, situated upon nearly 50 acres. The LECOM Research Collective will take residence in that location. A community dental clinic will find its home there as well, where fourth-year dental students will care for disadvantaged patients in need of dental assistance.

Undeniably, the mission of LECOM extends far beyond training the next generation of health care professionals. True to its profound motto: “Not for ourselves, but for others” — LECOM has consistently and unremittingly encouraged students and faculty toward service of others. Equally true to their calling, both groups annually devote thousands of hours to volunteer service, helping LECOM regularly earn a place upon the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.

Time and again, LECOM has provided a place in which resourcefulness and innovation have come together to educate and to better the communities that it serves. LECOM sees this future today because it remains steadfast in its mission to create that very future; to anticipate the challenges that lay before the health care fields and to proactively lay its cornerstone in the health care of tomorrow. It is a mission not simply to allow the future to happen; rather it is one in which the future is created by decisive and resolute undertakings. It is a future bright and filled with possibilities — and in the inspiring words first uttered over twenty years ago by founder, Dr. John Ferretti — “purposeful.” That purposeful promise was the vision of LECOM at the beginning — and it remains ever so as the legacy continues.

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