JONESBORO — Arkansas State University on Tuesday announced it has hired a consulting firm to conduct a study of the feasibility of establishing an osteopathic medical school.

ASU said it hired the nationally recognized firm Tripp Umbach to conduct the study.

The university has been looking to establish a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine school that would help fulfill the need for more primary care physicians in underserved areas of the Arkansas Delta. Doctors of osteopathy can perform some of the services of a primary care physician.

"Arkansas State has a history of looking at societal needs and addressing them through our academic programs," ASU Chancellor Tim Hudson said.

"Our goal is to advance osteopathic medicine and serve our state," Hudson said. "We know that D.O. schools can have a major impact. They elevate primary health care across a region, produce tremendous economic impact on communities and raise the prestige level of associated universities."

Last week, the Delta Regional Authority showed its support for the Arkansas State process by providing $25,000 investment to help cover the costs of the Tripp Umbach study.

Hudson said he expects to make a recommendation on next steps in the process, based on feedback from the formal study, to the ASU Board of Trustees before the end of the year.