Ramping up research

JAOA to osteopathic medical schools: Let’s get ENGAGED

The JAOA’s new ENGAGE Initiative encourages colleges of osteopathic medicine to publish their research in the AOA’s peer-reviewed journal.


Robert Orenstein, DO, the editor in chief of The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA), recently visited colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) across the country. He spoke with scientists, clinicians and educators about their research projects and their desire to share their work with their peers and the broader public. Determined to help them achieve this goal, Dr. Orenstein developed the ENGAGE Initiative in late 2014 to encourage COMs to publish their scholarly works in the JAOA.

The first installment

The JAOA’s May 2016 issue published the Initiative’s first set of articles from the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM) in Athens.

“We hope our readers find this work and future ENGAGE installments inspiring, and we hope these articles will engage faculty and students at other COMs in our endeavor to showcase the exciting scholarly activity in osteopathic medicine,” wrote Dr. Orenstein in an editorial column.

Global reach

All the major medical indices such as PubMed and Web of Science, cite the JAOA, and content from the AOA’s peer-reviewed publication has been covered by top-tier media outlets such as The Huffington Post and SHAPE. JAOA articles have the potential to have a much broader reach than those published in smaller specialty journals, says Dr. Orenstein, who also notes that working with the JAOA can help authors expand their network.

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“The JAOA’s reach can help authors connect with others interested in their research,” he says.

Editorial guidance

Via the ENGAGE Initiative, the JAOA encourages osteopathic medical school faculty and students to submit papers covering their research, their work’s impact on local health care and their school’s innovations in medical education.

JAOA staff can provide recommendations to best position submissions for publication. The team at OU-HCOM can vouch for that, having worked closely with the JAOA staff over the course of eight months to perfect their submissions.

“The process was simple and straightforward. The editorial staff was very hands-on and highly responsive,” says Elizabeth A. Beverly, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine.

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While the multiple submissions from OU-HCOM were handled individually, publishing them together as part of the ENGAGE Initiative required a coordinated effort.

“We had a lot of different communications with the JAOA staff to coordinate it all,” says Laura Rush, PhD, the executive director of the Clinical & Translational Research Unit at OU-HCOM.

Building capacity

Whether an osteopathic medical school is building its research capacity or reinvigorating it, the process doesn’t happen overnight. A smaller project can be an important first step.

“Remember that small projects should be embraced because they can develop into impactful projects that provide a research foundation,” advises Kelly L. Nottingham, MPH, the executive director of OU-HCOM’s Primary Care Research Initiatives.

Sonia M. Najjar, PhD

As the ENGAGE Initiative focuses on giving schools a platform for showcasing their works, Sonia M. Najjar, PhD, OU-HCOM’s associate dean of research and innovation, says exposing students to the scientific process is one of the most important things osteopathic medical schools can do.

“Include research electives, incorporate research seminars in the curriculum, and support their research activities,” she says.

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