The primary goal of A.T. Still University's School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (SOMA) is to create exceptional physicians. SOMA integrates a unique and innovative curriculum combined with early clinical experiences that prepares students for valuable and meaningful future in osteopathic medicine.

1+3 Model

Utilizing a "1+3" model, SOMA students are placed in the clinical setting much earlier than in many other medical schools that utilize a "2+2" model. During their first year on the Mesa campus, students’ didactic coursework is supplemented with standardized patient interactions, simulations, medical skills, and osteopathic manipulative medicine. Beginning in year 2, the students begin rotating with preceptors in one of 12 community campuses around the nation. While didactic instruction continues, patient interaction, professionalism, ethics, preventive medicine, and communication skills are emphasized in years 2-4.

In year two, students join one of our 12 select community campuses located in health centers across the country. During year two, SOMA students encounter the opportunity to observe patient care first-hand while at the same time continuing their academic education through various distance education technologies. Students will also continue their small group learning, lead by community campus faculty who are also working as practicing physicians.

Clinical Presentation on Curricular Model

The ultimate goal of the SOMA educational program is to provide opportunities for medical students to acquire a solid foundation in the knowledge, skills, values, attitudes, and behaviors that are necessary for the effective practice of medicine. In order to achieve this goal, SOMA has adopted a clinical presentation or scheme presentation model that serves as the foundation of its curriculum. This 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.

Basic and Clinical Science Integration

The SOMA curriculum is also designed to integrate basic and clinical sciences together in relation to their relevance to the clinical presentations. Traditional medical schools in the United States typically have learners first acquire knowledge in various fields of the basic sciences such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology and many others during the first 2 years of a curriculum (pre-clinical phase). This knowledge is then expected to be used by learners to diagnose clinical problems during third- and fourth-year clerkships (clinical phase). Research over the past few years in the area of the cognitive sciences has found this transfer of knowledge to be difficult and that many learners have to learn again in the clinical phase what they “learned” in the pre-clinical phase. Through the union of both basic and clinical science, there is no need for students to restructure their knowledge upon entering third- and fourth-year clinical clerkships.

Curriculum Organization

At SOMA, the clinical presentations are organized based upon the organ system to which they most logically fit, leading to a complete set of organ-system based courses that are offered during the first 2 years of the curriculum. Thus, presentations such as abdominal pain or constipation are taught in the gastrointestinal course. In addition to the organ system-based courses, the SOMA curriculum also contains courses in medical skills, osteopathic principles and practice, early clinical experiences and integrated clinical experiences.

Take a look at the University Catalog (pdf) for more information.

Typical Course Schedule

A typical course schedule consists of the following:

Year 1
  • Basic Structural Foundations
  • Cardiopulmonary I
  • Cardiopulmonary II
  • Foundations of Health
  • Gastro-Intestinal
  • Medical Skills I
  • Medical Skills II
  • Neuromusculoskeletal A
  • Neuromusculoskeletal B
  • Osteopathic Principles and Practice I
  • Osteopathic Principles and Practice II
  • Renal-Endocrine-Metabolism I
  • Renal-Endocrine-Metabolism II
Year 2
  • Biostatistics & Preventive Medicine
  • Dermatology
  • Epidemiology
  • Genitourinary I
  • Genitourinary II
  • Hematology
  • Human Development
  • Integrative
  • Integrative II
  • Medical Skills III
  • Medical Skills IV
  • Mind
  • Osteopathic Principles and Practice III
  • Osteopathic Principles and Practice IV
  • Senses
Year 3 Clerkships and Courses
  • Electives I (4weeks)
  • Electives II (2 weeks)
  • Family Medicine I (4 weeks)
  • Family Medicine II (4 weeks)
  • General Surgery (4 weeks)
  • Internal Medicine I (4 weeks)
  • Internal Medicine II (4 weeks)
  • Maternal/Child Health (4 weeks)
  • Obstetrics/Gynecology (4 weeks)
  • Osteopathic Principles and Practice V
  • Osteopathic Principles and Practice VI
  • Pediatrics (4 weeks)
  • Primary Care Selectives (4 weeks)
  • Psychiatry (4 weeks)
Year 4 Clerkships and Courses
  • Cardiology (4 weeks)
  • Critical Care (4 weeks)
  • Emergency Medicine (4 weeks)
  • MS4 Elective I (4 weeks)
  • MS4 Elective II (4 weeks)
  • MS4 Elective III (4 weeks)
  • Neurology (2 weeks)
  • Osteopathic Principles and Practice VII
  • Osteopathic Principles and Practice VIII
  • Selective I: Medicine (4 weeks)
  • Selective II: Medicine, Research, or Academic (4 weeks)
  • Selective III: Pediatrics (4 weeks)