MESA, Ariz. – The American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) has awarded A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA), located in Mesa, Ariz., its initial full accreditation status. ATSU-SOMA received official notification of the status May 31.

“To achieve accreditation status is a tremendous accomplishment for any medical school,” said Thomas McWilliams, interim dean, ATSU-SOMA. “It is particularly gratifying to have done this in a program that is as innovative as ATSU-SOMA.”

What sets ATSU-SOMA apart is its innovative curriculum. The Clinical Presentation Model, developed at the University of Calgary Medical School, is based on three categories in which patients present to physicians: signs, symptoms, and abnormal laboratory findings.

In many traditional medical education curricula, the first two years are spent in a large lecture hall setting learning anatomy, physiology, and microbiology, and each system is learned one at a time, such as cardiac, pulmonary, and gastrointestinal. The ATSU-SOMA Clinical Presentation Model integrates both clinical and basic sciences into organ-based courses so that students immediately learn how to clinically apply what they learn in their first year of medical school. Clinical activity comprises 10 percent of the year one curriculum, 20 percent of year two, and 90 percent of years three and four.

Prior to receiving full accreditation, a site visit by COCA to ATSU-SOMA was conducted January 19-21, 2011. COCA determined at their meeting on May 1 that ATSU-SOMA completed the provisional accreditation phase of its recognition process and advanced to accreditation.

“The unique curricular approach that distributes its students to under-served communities throughout their second, third, and fourth years of training was challenging for visiting accreditation team members who were familiar with more traditional models,” said Dr. McWilliams. “On further analysis, they were rapidly able to grasp the importance of our dedication to training healers for needed specialties and communities of need. It was truly heartwarming to hear their comments regarding each of the 11 community campuses that have been developed in close partnership with the National Association of Community Health Centers.  The opportunity to play a role in this has been the most important activity of my entire professional life. Our faculty, staff, and pioneering students have all done an exemplary job!”

Added Douglas Wood, D.O., Ph.D., ATSU senior vice president—academic affairs, and founding dean, ATSU-SOMA, “Attaining full accreditation is truly a milestone in the life of  the new osteopathic medical school. It is the result of much effort involving faculty, staff, and students who have worked diligently over several years. I thank them for their efforts.”

The ATSU School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA) graduates its first class of 92 students on June 3, 2011.

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