School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona
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SOMA

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why is the SOMA curriculum different?

-- Medical education has not changed much in the past few decades, even in light of tremendous advances in learning theory and cognitive behavior. If there is strong evidence that students learn best when material is presented in context and then immediately applied, why wouldn't we teach students this way? The SOMA curriculum takes advantage of these advances and has built a curriculum to optimize student learning.

What is the Clinical Presentation Curriculum Model?

-- The Clinical Presentation Curriculum Model is based on the various ways patients present to physicians.  Collectively, the clinical presentations represent common patient complaints (e.g., headache, abdominal pain), abnormalities of physical examination (e.g., systolic heart murmur), or abnormalities of commonly ordered laboratory studies, (e.g., anemia, hypocalcemia).  Altogether, there are approximately 120 +/- 5 presentations that comprise the SOMA curriculum.  The presentations serve as a starting point for the generation of relevant curricular content.

Does all the didactic coursework happen in Year 1 only?

-- Didactic coursework is incorporated into both Years 1 and 2. In Year 2, students are attending their chosen Community Campus and participating in didactic coursework through small group work and various distance education technologies. They also have the opportunity to see how their basic science knowledge and the Clinical Presentations apply in the clinical setting, thereby reinforcing the material, making it both relevant and applicable.

Year two sounds like it emphasizes "distance education". What kind of faculty support is in place to help students navigate through the year two curriculum?

-- Community Campuses are staffed by SOMA faculty, who are also practicing clinicians. Your Community Campus learning facilitators play a central role in guiding you through your second year didactic information. In addition, you have the full support of the SOMA faculty in Mesa and the assistance of ATSU Student Services.

It seems so different that traditional "Physiology", "Microbiology", or "Pharmacology" courses do not exist in the SOMA Curriculum. How does the SOMA curricular model ensure that enough basic science material is covered so that I succeed on COMLEX and USMLE board exams?

-- SOMA students receive basic science content consistent with what you would find in traditional medical school curricula. The SOMA curricular model bundles basic sciences with clinical science, in order to give our students a more comprehensive and practical foundation for each medical discipline. Evidence has shown that contextual learning is proven to be a more effective learning design than those methods that impose educational divisions.

What else do SOMA medical students do besides take courses at the community campuses during year two of the SOMA Curriculum?

-- In Year 2, SOMA medical students participate in an Integrated Clincial Experience (ICE), which focuse on: 1) professionalism and ethics; 2) communication skills; 3) data gathering and processing; and 4) population and preventative medicine.

Part of ICE requires SOMA medical students to follow a panel of 10 patients longitudinally during year two, under the supervision of Community Campus faculty and clinical preceptors. While following these patients, SOMA students develop an understanding of the interactions that occur between the various components of the health care delivery system and observe these patients, their disease states, and treatments over time.

What is the rationale behind SOMA sending its medical students away from the Mesa campus after just one year and off to the various community campuses?

-- Research shows that medical students learn best when information and skills are presented in context and in an environment where information and those skills are applied. In the year SOMA students spend on the Mesa campus, they become skilled at history-taking, physical examination, and communication skills which enable them to effectively interact with physicians, patient, families and members of the health care team. The clinical presentations the students receive in year one are reinforced and experienced in year two with actual patients seeking medical care at our Community Campuses.

Is the SOMA curriculum a four year curriculum like most other osteopathic and allopathic medical schools?

-- Yes, in years three and four of the SOMA curriculum, medical students complete clerkships and rotations, just like at other medical schools.

I've heard that if I attend SOMA, I have to commit to becoming a Primary Care Physician and work at a Community Health Center or a facility that serves rural or underserved communities. Is that true?

-- This is not true! SOMA wants its graduates to be one thing: excellent osteopathic physicians. It is our hope that the experiences that you have at the Community Campuses will inspire and encourage you to consider serving these communities in the future. Ultimately though, whatever specialty you decide to pursue, and where you choose to practice, is entirely up to you.

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