MESA, Ariz. (Aug. 5, 2008 ) –A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (SOMA) celebrated the enrollment of its second class at its White Coat Ceremony held in the Mesa Arts Center on Friday, August 1. The ceremony symbolizes an incoming student’s commitment to the obligations of their new profession and their responsibility to future patients. The event also represents new beginnings for SOMA as its inaugural class prepares to continue their education at partnering community campuses.
Students and faculty members campus-wide gathered at the event to celebrate the present and future of SOMA’s program. Keynote speaker Jack Dillenberg, D.D.S, M.P.H., dean of Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ASDOH), spoke on the significance of the ceremony and how physicians can better serve the community.
“I believe that the White Coat Ceremony is extremely important, especially when conducted at the beginning of the student’s journey in medical school. Students need to know that their values of integrity, honesty, and compassion are essential in their education as physicians. Their patients will come to trust and respect them as they demonstrate these important qualities. This trust will enable the ‘new’ physicians to better serve their patients, the patient’s family, and ultimately the community at large,” said Dr. Dillenberg.
SOMA, known for its cutting edge technology and self-directed learning, prepares its students to become more efficient as physicians by offering them hands-on learning in small group settings, a firsthand look at local healthcare systems, and an opportunity to be part of community health practices.
“This could be one of the most innovative medical schools in the country for two main reasons: our curricular model and sending students out [to other campuses]”, said Douglas Wood, D.O., Ph.D., dean of SOMA. “Medical students learn best when they are in the context they are learning. They learn what they can use right away.”
For three of their four educational years students will work closely with community health care centers where they will continue to spend time learning in classroom settings. SOMA offers students the opportunity to attend one of the 11 partnering community campuses or consortiums with locations ranging from Sunset Family Health Center in New York to Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health, based in Hawaii. Each location has its own character and varying techniques but all reach out to underserved communities. The campuses were selected based on their quality, size, and reputation for leadership. Other important factors in the decision were location and demographics of the area.
“Students need to understand how local healthcare systems operate and become advocates for learning inside of them. If they’re not culturally adept, they won’t be as effective as physicians,” said Gary Cloud, Ph.D., director of advancement with SOMA.
The program’s inaugural class consisted of 107 students from 23 different states along with countries including Mexico and Africa. Of them, their average age was 27; 62 were male and 45 were female. Current registration indicates the incoming class’s average age is 26 and is comprised of 103 students, 52 males and 51 females.
After competing their first year at ATSU, students receive a four- to five-week break followed by the continuation of their education across the nation in September.
“Our goal is to see at least 25 percent of them work more than a year at their campus [after completion of program] – that would be very, very good,” said Dr. Wood of the students. “This is something that other folks haven’t done before. The opportunity is here and not at other schools.”
A total of 59 need-based scholarships were granted to select incoming students. Of them, four students received $10,000; 14 received $2,000; and 41 received $1,000.