Technology is even more essential to teaching medicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students may have to learn online, but they also have to be prepared for a world where telemedicine has become more accepted and even preferred by some patients.
With the majority of D.O.s going on to become family-oriented primary care physicians, they often practice in smaller towns or rural communities. Embracing a changing world is paramount, and learning that adaptability in medical school can set up an aspiring D.O. for success.
As more people learn about the benefits of osteopathic medicine, more schools have been opening to accommodate, and technological advancements in those schools are essential to success. One of these schools, the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, will graduate its first class in May 2021.
According to Brian Kim, J.D., President of Arkansas Colleges of Health Education, medical school is a gateway to a profession, as well as a potential way of life.
“This is not just a place to acquire a degree, this is where they are beginning their professional career,” Kim said. “Technology has become an integral part of the practice of medicine. Our state-of-the-art campus prepares our students for real-world scenarios. Another responsibility that we as medical educators have is to teach our students that they are going to be part of a profession that is highly regarded, and where their conduct will play a pivotal role in their communities. Whether they are treating a patient or out in the community, the reality is they will have to adhere to a higher standard.”
Kim also explains that osteopathic medical education is growing at a faster rate than allopathic medical education, with the ratio of osteopathic medical students to allopathic medical students increasing from 1 out of every 4 students to 1 out of every 3 students in the past five years.
“Many of our students have had a personal experience — either as a patient themselves or some other encounter with the medical profession — that has led them to pursue primary care as their career path,” he said. “Osteopathic medicine teaches holistic, mind, body, and spirit care. D.O. students want to treat a person, not a patient.”
A future outlook
In order to fully prepare medical students, colleges must embrace advancements in technology and incorporate them into the curriculum. Kim mentions Anatomage tables as an example. Anatomage tables are virtual dissection tables that allow students to study the human anatomy through virtual 3D images.
”We also introduce our students to simulated patient contact through our high-fidelity simulation lab, complete with five fully interactive adult and one child simulation mannequins,” Kim said. “These mannequins, with lifelike features and responsive physiology, allow our students early clinical experience where they learn to develop critical thinking, communication, and clinical skills without risk to real patients. We have invested approximately $3.5 million in this lab where our students have clinical experiences beginning in their first semester of medical school.”
Doctors of osteopathic medicine see patients beyond just their symptoms and focus on preventative care by factoring in a patient’s lifestyle, mental health, and attitude in order to look at simultaneously fighting and preventing illnesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this may include various uses of telemedicine, such as video calls with patients.
“We also incorporated telemedicine into our clinical curriculum so that our third- and fourth-year students would be prepared to gather patient information through a 21st century method,” Kim said.