Strengthening Relationships with Osteopathic Medical Students
One of the challenges facing ACOI in the changing environment of medicine and medical education is creating and strengthening relationships with osteopathic medical students. Osteopathic medical education is a growth industry, fueled by the rapid increase in the number of osteopathic medical schools and branch campuses. Roughly a quarter of all students currently in medical school in the USA are in osteopathic medical schools. On one hand, this bodes well for the future of our profession. Never before has osteopathic medicine been so present in so many conversations in so many important circles about the future of medicine in the USA. In sheer numbers, there will be more DOs than ever – and certainly, more DO internists, as Internal Medicine has now become the most popular choice of residency for DO graduates. On the other hand, the unintended consequences of Single GME and the current (contested) dictates of ABIM make the future of osteopathic board certification uncertain, and this casts a shadow on the future of our profession. It represents a potential obstacle to keeping and strengthening connections with our graduates once they leave residency, if they have not been certified in their specialty by osteopathic certifying boards.
Perhaps the best way to meet this challenge is to start early. We can increase our outreach to students in the earliest stages of their medical education (or before!), to develop their understanding of and relationship to osteopathic principles, especially as epitomized in Principle-Centered Medicine™, and to cultivate these relationships over the breadth of the educational continuum, from application to osteopathic medical school, through undergraduate medical education, into residency, and beyond into professional life.
One aspect of this is the “ChooseDO” program created by AACOM (and its president Robert Cain, DO, an ACOI Board member). “ChooseDO” will reach out to college undergraduates and even high school students to begin their education about osteopathic medicine as a life path.
Focused more particularly on currently enrolled students of osteopathic medicine, Robert Good, DO, is championing this cause on behalf of ACOI. Dr. Good is a former president of ACOI, and continues to serve our profession in many ways. Dr. Good is working on this project with Valentina Lassalle, DO (Dr. Lassalle is our resident representative on the Board), Joshua Layher, DO, and Seo Hanna, OMS2. This team is developing programs to increase our outreach to our students.
As you might know, we have a longstanding Visiting Professor program. In this program, members of the ACOI Board of Directors (present and past) and other distinguished members visit colleges of osteopathic medicine and meet with students in their internal medicine clubs. The Visiting Professor Program is a great program in which we can really get out and meet students, create relationships, and promote awareness of osteopathic internal medicine as a career choice. We have tried to get to as many campuses as we could, but with the proliferation of new schools, we have not made it to all of them. As you might guess, this program has suffered in the year of COVID-19. We have not traveled to colleges since the pandemic began. But the program is not gone. In fact, we are working with new online platforms to refashion the Visiting Professorship program. The new Visiting Professor program will allow us to visit more than one college at a time. Potentially, we will soon be able to visit all campuses, virtually. This will increase our outreach, increase our ability to communicate with osteopathic students, and enhance our influence on their interest in internal medicine.
But Dr. Good’s efforts are not confined to the Visiting Professorship program. He and his team are of course planning to create ongoing relationships with ACOI and student internal medicine clubs. Among the goals of the program will be: to provide leadership training for student leaders for club development; to provide the potential for mentorship for our members; to make the general populations of osteopathic students more aware of internal medicine and the ACOI; and to provide innovative presentations to the general student membership. This work will enhance the Visiting Professorship program, and also our student programs at the annual convention. We see this as a tremendous opportunity to develop the future of our profession, and to spread the ideals of Principle-Centered Medicine™.
Another student-oriented activity in which we recently participated was the virtual Student Fair held by AACOM on August 14. Students from every college of osteopathic medicine were present, and specialty societies had chat rooms for open conversations with the students. For over eight hours, students signed in and out, to converse with and ask questions of ACOI Board members and other volunteers. Thanks to AACOM for the great opportunity to connect with students.
Of course, it is tautological to say that our students are our future. But it is true, and we have to embrace this truth to grow. If you are interested in participating in the Visiting Professor program, please let me know. We thrive on your volunteer spirit. If you would like to help the ACOI reach our students, let us know! I would love to hear from you, and I will share your interest with Dr. Good and the ACOI team.
Sam Snyder, DO, FACOI