The college's relationship with the hospital is a major recruiting tool, Barnett said. Having a teaching hospital nearby helps differentiate OSU from other osteopathic schools across the country, and losing that hospital could make it more difficult for the college to fill whatever residency positions are left.
“We're scared to death of what it would do to the medical school itself,” he said.
This isn't the first time OSU Medical Center has faced the prospect of shutting down. The center nearly closed its doors in 2009, but remained open when the city of Tulsa created a trust to take over the hospital. The state provided $5 million annually for five years to keep the hospital running, and St. John Health System took over operations at the hospital.
But the hospital's relationship with St. John ended last year, and the temporary state funding is about to end, making the hospital's future uncertain once again.
Jake Whitener, a second-year medical student from Hulbert, said students “benefit hugely” from the hospital. Faculty members from the college also work at the hospital, meaning students are learning from practicing physicians.
Whitener said he's concerned about the impact the loss of the hospital would have on the state. Losing the hospital would drive students elsewhere for their residencies, and since those students are also often looking to start families, they're less likely to come back.
Whitener said he's committed to going to work in rural Oklahoma once he completes his training, whether he is able to complete his residency in Oklahoma or not.
“But,” he added, “I still need somewhere to train.”