School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona
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"The Medical School of the Future"

Making the Case : Curriculum - What's Different : Community Health Centers : In the News

Curriculum - What's Different?

SOMA will complement the osteopathic medical school model used by ATSU’s Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine by adding innovative strategies to what already exists. The most striking change is ATSU’s new partnership with the nation’s Community Health Centers (CHC), which provide a healthcare safety net for underserved communities. SOMA students will begin their clinical observations in CHCs at the start of their second year instead of waiting until the third year as in traditional models.

Parts of the basic sciences will be bundled with clinical sciences and learned together. This practice of learning skills in the same environment in which they will be applied is called “contextual learning.” This has been shown to be more effective than methods that impose arbitrary educational divisions.

Another change is the incorporation of the Clinical Presentation Model, which holds that there are approximately 120 different ways that patients present to physicians. Students will learn in-depth responses to these presentations. Dean Doug Wood, D.O., Ph.D., says that the overall design of this curriculum will emphasize clinical competencies.

“The curriculum will provide students with a framework for making clinical decisions, allowing them to practice a method of analysis and an approach to patients that they will use for the rest of their professional career," he said.

Wood also believes that by spending an extended period of time in CHCs, students will have better relationships with their patients.

“After building relationships that are more than short-term encounters, ATSU believes students will thereby be more compassionate physicians with higher integrity,” he said. “Our goal is to produce humane healthcare leaders who are technologically adept, prevention oriented, and who are lifelong learners and teachers.”

Not only will students be advantaged by the new curriculum, but CHC patients also will benefit from these changes. By putting osteopathic medical students in the CHCs, ATSU is working toward ensuring that underserved communities have the healthcare they need.

The new curriculum will be successful, said Dr. Wood, because it has been planned using Best Evidence Medical Education (BEME). The use of BEME requires that only the curricular elements that have been studied and proven effective are selected and implemented.

Along with the dramatic changes occurring at ATSU, the University is keeping its focus on osteopathic principles and a humanistic approach to healthcare and education. The new curriculum was designed to enhance whole person healthcare, Wood said, ensuring that physicians care for people in their entirety – in body, mind, and spirit.