A.T. Still University-School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA) students returned to campus for their weekly osteopathic principles and practice (OPP) lab class.
With safety being the number one priority for students, faculty, and staff, classes are looking a little different than in the past. Viewing an empty classroom, one can see stations are spaced at least six feet apart, and sanitization supplies are readily available throughout the room.
Before the semester began and students started on-campus classes in small groups, faculty and staff members worked diligently to establish safety protocols that would keep everyone safe. In addition to following the Center for Disease Control guidelines, such as social distancing, frequent hand sanitizer use, and smaller class sizes, faculty members considered what protocols should be followed when a student reports to campus with a fever or sore throat. That is when the idea of the ATSU-SOMA clearinghouse was developed.
James Keane, DO, MEd, assistant professor, leads the ATSU-SOMA clearinghouse through the Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine clinic. If a student has symptoms or there is potential for exposure to the virus, they are instructed to call the clinic to begin the clearinghouse procedures, so they can be monitored and tracked, in an attempt to prevent any spread of the virus.
“Dr. Keane came up with a plan to track everybody, so that I know, as a course director, that this student is not supposed to be in my class today,” David Shoup, DO, associate professor said. “Then, as the course director, I have to figure out what to do with that student, so they still have a meaningful experience.”
Students who are going through ATSU-SOMA’s clearinghouse procedures are able to continue OPP through Zoom. While they might not be able to work with their assigned lab partner, alternative options are considered to keep the hands-on learning in motion. If the student has someone else within their household that is also going through quarantine, for example, that person can be utilized as their lab partner. Faculty will then watch the student demonstrate OMM via Zoom.
ATSU-SOMA faculty and staff have worked together to develop these innovative ideas and protocols to ensure students are continuing to stay on track with the rigorous curriculum, which is unlike any other medical school. ATSU-SOMA students will already be working on patients by year two with ATSU’s community health center partners; thus, the hands-on experience in the first year of medical school is essential.
“As osteopathic physicians, we have an educational requirement that you have to have hands-on time. If you don’t do it now, that requirement doesn’t just go away,” Dr. Shoup said. “So, we are just getting it done. That is why we are going through all these hoops with the masks, sanitizers, and disinfectants, to get the students back on campus.”