Simpler search

Networking 101: SOMA to launch national clerkship database

The online resource will enable students to find and share information about clinical rotations.


After spending the first two years of osteopathic medical school sitting through lectures and poring over textbooks, most students are anxious to apply their knowledge in a clinical setting. Finally able to take patient histories and perform physical exams, they look forward to observing medical procedures and honing their clinical problem solving skills.

But after all their preparation and hard work, third- and fourth-year students often encounter roadblocks when searching for osteopathic rotations in desired specialties and locations. Unless they are already familiar with a particular preceptor or institution, many students have no idea how to even begin the search.

In many cases, medical students rely on word-of-mouth, online forums or chat rooms to find leads on potential rotation sites. Others look to experienced DOs and professors for advice.

Until now, the osteopathic medical profession has not offered a reliable comprehensive source students can use to search for elective rotations. But that is about to change.

In August, the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) will launch the National SOMA Clinical Clerkship Database, a resource that will enable students to share information about rotations they have completed, as well as obtain information about potential training sites and DOs willing to accept students for clerkships.

Creating a concept

A few years ago, AOA Trustee William M. Silverman, DO, began to ponder the idea of creating a comprehensive resource students could use to locate osteopathic preceptors for elective rotations. Without such a resource, he feared a large number of osteopathic medical students would feel their options were limited and choose to complete rotations at allopathic institutions.

In reality, there are plenty of high-quality osteopathic rotations available, Dr. Silverman says. Students just need to know where to look for them. Likewise, there are a multitude of DOs throughout the country who are interested in providing teaching experiences but don't know how to reach out to medical students.

Although Dr. Silverman recognized the need for a clerkship database, he wasn't sure how to make the vision a reality. The idea was placed on the back burner, but was never forgotten.

Last year, the concept was resurrected when the AOA asked Dr. Silverman to work in cooperation with SOMA to plan and create a comprehensive clerkship database. "Not only will a national database expand the preceptor database schools already have, but it will also help remind DOs who have never offered rotations that it is time to pay it forward," says Dr. Silverman, who serves as an associate clinical professor at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine-Bradenton in Florida and a clinical instructor at the Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Laying the groundwork

During my third year of medical school, I experienced the frustrations of searching for an osteopathic rotation. Wanting to share my experiences with fellow students, I even tried to post my rotation history and a list of possible clerkship sites on my school's Student Government Association Web site. Although I encouraged my classmates to do the same, I knew it would not be enough.

To create a useful clerkship resource, we needed to develop an expansive system that would be easily accessible by a larger student network. Students needed to be able to log onto a secure system where they could scroll through an extensive list of clerkships until they found options in their desired specialties and locations.

So when I learned that Dr. Silverman and SOMA shared this vision, I was eager to jump on board. During the 2008-09 academic year, I served as the clinical clerkship coordinator for the SOMA National Board.

After defining the overall mission of the database, I worked with fellow SOMA members to identify three major goals for the project. Most importantly, we wanted the database to enable students to seek out high-quality osteopathic rotations throughout the nation. Second, we wanted students to be able to post evaluations of their completed rotations. Finally, we envisioned the site being used to connect DOs looking to offer rotations with students searching for opportunities in desired specialties and locations.

Nuts and bolts

Once the database launches, osteopathic medical students will be able to access its content via a link on the SOMA Web site, found at All SOMA members will be pre-registered to use the system and will receive a username and password to use when logging onto the database.

Once logged into the system, students will be able to submit contact information for sites where they have completed rotations. A drop-down menu will then prompt students to enter additional information on several criteria, including their overall rating of the rotation, amount of OMT performed, residency/fellowship programs offered, meals and housing.

Students will also be able to enter information about rotations with allopathic physicians, but only if the MD supports and actively demonstrates osteopathic principles and practice.

Database administrators will contact DOs via the AOA listserve to encourage them to submit contact information if they are willing to accept students for rotations. Physicians will be asked to provide information about their area of practice, patient demographics and amount of OMT performed.

Once they have finished a rotation, students and DOs will be invited to complete a short survey that includes questions about the functionality of the database so that SOMA will be able to continuously improve the site.

Thanks to a $6,000 grant from the American Osteopathic Foundation, SOMA was able to hire an outside company to complete the technical construction and maintain the database. SOMA's webmaster and newsletter editor, Nicholas Eugene Perkins, OMS II, will oversee design of the database, its registration and security system and its incorporation into the SOMA Web site. "Our hope is that this database will become the de facto resource for clerkship information for all osteopathic medical students," says Perkins, a student at the Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harrogate, Tenn.

Looking ahead

In order for the database to expand, we strongly urge all osteopathic medical students who have completed rotations to enter their information on the site. The more submissions students and DOs contribute, the greater the number of students who will be able to successfully use the site to locate clerkships.

Kristina Marie Manion, OMS IV, says she wishes such a resource had been available when she was a third-year osteopathic medical student. "This database offers such a great opportunity for future DOs," says Manion, who served as SOMA's 2008-09 president. "I encourage all students to submit their rotation information and to take advantage of this new resource."

Leave a comment Please see our comment policy