Catholic medical school at Benedictine College seeks accreditation, eyes 2027 opening

Benedictine College Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Courtesy photo.

A new Catholic, osteopathic medical school that will be housed on the campus of Benedictine College hopes to open in the fall of 2027, the project’s founding president told CNA this week. 

Dr. George Mychaskiw, an osteopath and a pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist, told CNA that the school in February completed its application to the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation, the body designated by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit programs that grant the doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree. 

The planned school, first announced last September and dubbed the St. Padre Pio Institute for the Relief of Suffering, will adhere to Ex Corde Ecclesiae, St. John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution on the mission of Catholic colleges and universities. 

It will be housed on the campus of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, but as a separate institution. The school aims for “candidate status” by December 2025, with classes beginning during fall 2027. (Legally, because of the accreditation process, the school cannot yet advertise for or accept prospective students, Mychaskiw noted.)

The Catholic medical school will aim to “emphasize that all life is equal and equally worthy and equally precious from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death,” the DO said. The school aims to train new doctors — who will, upon graduation, practice in a world replete with moral challenges — in Catholic bioethics, morality, and theology.

“We’ll be the only medical school in the world that is under the apostolic doctrine of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, which will make it the most faithful Catholic medical school, we believe, in the world, certainly in the United States … the most pro-life, the most pro-family medical school in the country,” he said.

There are several dozen osteopathic medical schools in the U.S., which teach almost one-third of U.S. medical students. There are a handful of Catholic osteopathic schools. The first opened in 2013 at the Indianapolis-based Marian University, a Franciscan institution.

The training process for osteopathic doctors is rigorous, and about 11% of practicing physicians in the U.S. are DOs and a quarter of all medical students are studying to become DOs, the accrediting body says.

Mychaskiw has founded several secular medical schools across the country. He said the osteopathic profession’s emphasis on treating the whole person rather than the specific disease or symptoms at hand make it a good fit for a Catholic medical school. 

“Osteopathic physicians believe that a person is a mind, body, and spirit, and you can’t treat one without affecting everything else. And our job is not so much to treat disease as to find health and wellness,” he explained. 

Beyond that, Mychaskiw said, the faithful environment of Benedictine College, where spiritual support from the monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey is readily available, will be a boon for medical students, who frequently suffer high rates of stress and burnout on the path toward their degree. 

“We know a lot of stories of young students that come in and get broken by the system. They suffer from stress and anxiety and depression,” he noted. 

“We believe a supportive, faithful environment in a joyful and loving atmosphere of faith will provide a better learning experience and make these people better physicians and more comfortable and joyful in their work.”

The school will accept all students, regardless of their religion, but the school will have “a Catholic-based code of conduct by which they will have to adhere.” The school plans to participate in federally guaranteed student loan programs, at least under current guidelines.

“If in the future, criteria change and the federal government put mandates on the school that would be in contrast or contrary to its Catholic orientation, then we’re ready to forgo federal student loans,” Mychaskiw noted, adding that it is “very easy for medical students to get private loans outside of the federal Title IV system.”

The involvement of Catholic bishops — including Cardinal Raymond Burke, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann — and clergy on the board of trustees underscores the school’s commitment to maintaining its Catholic identity, Mychaskiw said, while at the same time the school plans to welcome students of diverse backgrounds and faiths.

Mychaskiw said they have explored the possibility of building a new, 100,000-square-foot building on Benedictine’s campus as well as the repurposing of existing buildings. Collaboration with Benedictine College’s school of architecture is planned, he said, to ensure the new building’s design aligns with the college’s architectural style and functional requirements.

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“It’s very hard to overstate the importance of the project. It’s just a matter of the practicalities of getting the money together,” he said, noting that it is “about a $120 million project.”

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