Renaissance students

DO schools revamp efforts to foster well-rounded medical students

Several DO schools have new programs to further encourage students to embrace various pursuits beyond math and science.


Medical schools are taking a new, holistic approach to fostering more well-rounded future physicians, as recent developments at some schools and changes in the Medical College Admissions Test demonstrate.

Many osteopathic medical schools have a long history of prioritizing candidates with diverse interests. But in the past decade, several DO schools have added new programs and classes to further encourage students to embrace pursuits beyond math and science. Some initiatives focus on humanities and the arts, while others emphasize compassion. Here are a few examples:

HuMED: This brand-new program encourages undergraduate humanities majors to attend medical school. Via a partnership between the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine, and the University of New England’s (UNE) College of Arts and Sciences, undergrads in the program conduct research, pursue clinical shadowing and participate in interprofessional education activities.

“These students will not only acquire the knowledge necessary to begin medical school but will also contribute, through their work in the humanities, to meaningful change in the delivery of health care on a personal or systemic basis,” says Jeanne Hey, PhD, the dean of UNE’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Through the Lens Initiative: Since 2013, students at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury have honed their photography skills via this photo contest. Each quarter, students, faculty and staff submit photos based on a school-related theme; a judging committee chooses three winners and displays their work in the school’s hallways.

Leadership Academy for Compassionate Care (LACC): The Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Lansing (MSUCOM) started the LACC in 2012 following a faculty discussion on the importance of compassion in medicine.

“Today’s data-driven students attempt to find out about themselves through mining data on smartphones and laptops,” says John Meulendyk, DO, MPH, who co-directs the LACC. “Personal eye contact, touch and bodily awareness are often missing. These are the basic tools for showing compassion.”

Students in the LACC, which is now an elective course, receive real-life training in working with patients facing trauma and end-of-life situations. They also study self-care and pursue greater self-awareness via art projects.

Community health focus: Established in 2007, the A.T. Still University-School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona in Mesa has from inception employed an education model in which students study on campus for their first year only, then spend their second through fourth years training in a designated community health center. The experience helps students develop compassion via hands-on training with underserved populations.

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