Taking initiative

How to create a free OMM clinic at your COM

In August 2022, two second-year medical students helped reopen the NYITCOM OMM Community Free Clinic. Over a year later, the clinic’s impact has exceeded their expectations. 


Two second-year medical students, Anisha Jobanputra and Sarah Im (now OMS IIIs), were eager to find a way to combine their osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) knowledge and passion for service. They considered what they could do to benefit the student body and the surrounding community. As the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) campus already had multiple community free clinics in place, there seemed to be a crucial piece missing—free manipulative medicine.  

While there had been a free OMM clinic in the past, the service had closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, in August 2022, Student Doctor Jobanputra and Student Doctor Im took initiative and reopened the NYITCOM OMM Community Free Clinic. Over a year later, the impact has exceeded their expectations. 

Refining OMM techniques 

Osteopathic medical students receive over 200 hours of OMM training, learning ways to treat various ailments with their hands in a holistic manner. These conditions range from muscle strains to headaches and even constipation. Despite this vast skill set, most students will not treat a patient with OMM until their third-year clinical rotations. Although learning treatment techniques on young, healthy individuals is a beneficial start to the practice of OMM, the lack of opportunity to treat patients and feel true pathologies in need of OMM has been a setback for many students.

Therefore, establishing the free OMM clinic and providing this experience for osteopathic medical students has given them the chance to refine their OMM techniques, gain an appreciation for how conditions feel on symptomatic patients and build a framework to recognize pathologic and physiologic changes. Many patients with Parkinson’s present with hypertonic musculature and rigidity, and OMM has been shown to be a useful tool that improves functionality and quality of life in these patients. We’ve found that these patients respond exceptionally well to muscle energy technique.

Launching the free clinic at the NYITCOM campus also allows students to provide supervised care for a historically underserved local population surrounding the campus. This clinic allows members of the community to receive free osteopathic care regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. After only one year, the clinic has been able to establish relationships with returning patients, and it is rewarding being able to see the impact this clinic has already had on the community. 

Volunteering our time 

Although it was a challenge to make our presence known in the community, we took advantage of on-campus events to help spread the word. One such event was NYITCOM’s Rock Steady Boxing event. Rock Steady Boxing is a program that allows patients with Parkinson’s Disease to remain active through functional movement and boxing. We also verbally spread the word during OMM Lab, and printed advertisements that were displayed in our on-campus family medicine/physical therapy clinic!  

Students who volunteer at our free clinic frequently say that one of the most rewarding aspects of the clinic is being able to treat patients with Parkinson’s, as they get the opportunity to combine their knowledge of the disease and mechanics of OMM and are able to see improvement in real time. Often a simple muscle energy technique can drastically improve a Parkinson’s patient’s range of motion. In general, we’ve observed that OMM not only increases this patient population’s mobility and function, but also their morale, which is an incredibly inspiring thing to witness.

The clinic also provides a valuable opportunity for students to develop and hone their clinical interviewing and examination skills. While at the clinic, medical students are fully immersed and take the primary lead in the clinical interview. For every patient that they see, students conduct a history, perform a pertinent physical examination (including an osteopathic structural exam), provide osteopathic manipulative treatment under supervision and write a patient note. A board-certified OMM physician reviews each portion with the students, giving constructive feedback and guiding the patient’s care.  

Students also enjoy seeing how OMM can be performed synergistically between multiple people on one patient, targeting different areas at the same time and observing how the body functions as a unit.  

How to start a free OMM clinic 

As the process can seem daunting, we wanted to provide some guidance on how to start an OMM clinic at your own institution. Firstly, it is imperative to gather a group of students who are passionate about OMM and community service to lead your efforts. These students must be willing and able to devote the time necessary to build and run a growing clinic. Partnering with a faculty member is also of great importance—they will supervise all visits, collaborate with students to develop treatment plans and guide students on perfecting their manipulative medicine techniques. We pride ourselves not only on delivering quality care to our patients, but equally on serving as an engaging learning experience for our student volunteers to treat real symptoms with their hands.

Additionally, finding a space to hold the clinic can be challenging. If your institution already has clinic space available, we recommend asking if you can use the space when it is not in use. The location and time should be as consistent as possible to promote continuity. When our clinic was starting to blossom from an idea to reality, we also looked for ways to dive directly into the community.

We reached out to local farmers’ markets, food pantries and fairs to see if they would be amenable to us running a booth, which they were! This made our services easily accessible and made our presence known. We highly suggest finding ways to delve into surrounding neighborhoods to reach more people and show how much you care for your community.  

A crucial part of your clinic will be the paperwork. Contact your institution or on-campus clinics for HIPAA forms and consent-to-treat forms, making sure OMM is included under treatments. It will be useful to create an email or use a voicemail service so patients can contact you to schedule appointments. On the day of clinic, we encourage you to have volunteers come an hour early so you can explain the EMR, how to perform a head-to-toe physical and a thorough osteopathic structural exam, and best practices for a smooth clinic visit. Start small, and we’re sure your clinic will grow with time.

Our clinic has treated patients of all ages and backgrounds from the local community and out of state. We encourage every osteopathic medical school to consider opening a free OMM clinic as the continuous impact we have made in just one year is something we would love to see in more communities across the country. 

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

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