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News Release

Date: 9/12/08

ATSU-SOMA student training projects receive funding

MESA, ARIZ. – A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA) has been awarded funding for two projects that will further enhance efforts to train students in rural and underserved areas in Arizona.

SOMA students spend their second through fourth years learning at community health center campuses throughout the nation, giving them an opportunity for hands-on learning in a small group setting while at the same time helping to provide healthcare services to many underserved populations. Three of those community health center campus locations are in Arizona.

The Arizona Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) awarded SOMA $75,000 to fund the Arizona Rural and Underserved Health Workforce Training Project, and another $25,000 to fund the American Indian Rural Service (AIRS) Training and Northern Arizona Rural Service (NARS) Training Projects.The Arizona AHEC Program is administered through the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center.

“We are honored to work in partnership with the AHEC central office and the three regional AHECs to train medical students in local community environments that provide exceptional care to underserved populations,” said Thomas E. McWilliams, D.O., FACOFP, associate dean of bio-clinical sciences at SOMA. “These grants allow students to be exposed to didactic and clinical materials in context; that is, in an environment where the knowledge can be applied and services rendered.

“We believe that this type of learning is more effectively recalled and that such experiences will promote the selection of specialty careers that are needed by underserved communities and populations,” he continued. “The grants also allow us to better prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals to provide culturally appropriate care and to work effectively as part of a healthcare team.”

The Arizona Rural and Underserved Health Workforce Training Project gives students an opportunity to assist in the delivery of medical services to underserved populations served by AHEC centers. As part of this project, ATSU will establish “classrooms in a box” at SOMA’s three Arizona community health center campuses: Phoenix Indian Medical Center in Phoenix, North Country Community Health Center in Flagstaff, and El Rio Community Health Center in Tucson. The classroom in a box includes a computer, network connection equipment, and audio, video, and graphics components that together form a system that will enable remote lecture presentations, conferences, and workshops at the community campus sites. Funds will also help facilitate inter-professional experiences with ATSU peers from the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, and fund a consultant who will present a workshop on cultural competency and cross-cultural communication.

The AIRS Training Project partners SOMA students with the Greater Valley Area Health Education Center and allows them to become an integral part of the Phoenix Indian Medical Center healthcare team that provides quality primary care to approximately 153,500 American Indian patients. Similarly, the NARS project partners students with the Northern Area Health Education Center to observe patient care and gain an understanding of the local healthcare system. Funds from AIRS and NARS projects pay for students’ travel expenses to remote training sites as well as provide portable equipment for effective training at those sites.


Founded in 1892 as the nation’s first college of osteopathic medicine, A.T. Still University provides graduate level education in whole person healthcare. Recognized internationally for its integrated approach, ATSU equips students with the knowledge, compassion, and hands-on experience needed to address the body, mind, and spirit. The University now comprises the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, the School of Health Management, the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, the Arizona School of Health Sciences, the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona, and the Postgraduate School of Osteopathic Clinical Research.