Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH

Service and Compassion: Hallmarks of the Osteopathic Medical Student Population 

For many of us, the holiday season is a time for reflecting on our good fortune in the family and friends we enjoy, and spending time with them celebrating our shared blessings. But recent and horrific national events have caused me also to reflect on the need for compassion and service to those suffering and in need. And nowhere are compassion and service more evident than among the osteopathic medical students we serve.

Osteopathic medicine’s historical roots in community-based, primary care is based upon and reinforces the need for service and compassion. This is reflected in the fact that osteopathic medical schools have always valued these attributes in their applicants; the students they accept are strongly committed to serving the underserved, whether in practice or through volunteer activity.

More than 40 percent of first-year osteopathic medical students plan to practice in underserved areas of the country. While osteopathic medical students accounted for 20 percent of all U.S. medical students in 2011, they received 40 percent of all NHSC physician scholarships that year, having committed to practicing in high-need areas following their graduation. And during each of its four meetings every year, AACOM’s Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents models the service commitment by engaging in an activity that serves the local community.

So, it is no wonder that during this holiday season, osteopathic medical students have spent countless hours engaging in service activities.

  • At the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) in Erie and Seton Hill, for example, students collected gifts for Toys for Tots. The Erie campus SGA presented its toys to the U.S. Marine Corps during a recent Erie BayHawks NBA-Development League game.
  • LECOM’s Bradenton campus students collected toys for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program, hosted a canned food drive for the Food Bank of Manatee County and collected blankets, clothing and toiletries for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
  • At the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine, the campus’s Student Association of Military Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons (SAMOPS) also organized a Toys for Tots drive. And, the school’s Global Health Club picked 1,500 pounds of apples and donated them to local food banks in the Yakima Valley.
  • At Touro University Nevada College of Osteopathic Medicine, students collected clothes and toiletry items to donate to a local shelter for abused and homeless women and children, where the school also staffs a medical clinic.
  • Students at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences College of Osteopathic Medicine engaged in a variety of holiday service activities under the theme The Giving Tree, hosting a canned and non-perishable food drive to provide nourishment to those in need, collecting clothing and blankets and coats for homeless children, and collecting vitamins and travel-size hygiene items for those in need in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
  • University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine students also decked the halls with a “giving tree,” collecting items for Judi’s Place for Kids, a refuge for abused children. The college’s SGA, ACOPeds Club, SOMA and Rotaract Club ushered in the holidays with toy and clothing drives and Christmas gift certificates for foster children and a local shelter.
  • West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine students collected winter coats for families in a combined effort with the local United Way, collected non-perishable food items for the Lewisburg/Fairlea Food Locker during the Thanksgiving holiday, and hosted Heart of the Holidays, an event that brings together students, faculty and staff who provide toys to children in need. The children visit with Santa and enjoy a holiday feast with their families.
  • The Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine (DMU-COM) Family Medicine Club (above) collected presents for 75 families at the House of Mercy, an organization dedicated to assisting pregnant, parenting/non-parenting, and adolescent/adult women in developing personal responsibility and independence through counseling, education and medical care. DMU-COM students also participated in a food drive for those in need. 
  • At the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, students donated coats for children in need and worked with the Athens County Children Services' Giving Tree program to provide gifts to local children living in difficult situations.
  • Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine - Carolinas Campus (VCOM-CC) students organized and collected gifts and food for the school's Angel Tree program. Additionally, members of VCOM-CC's Medical Outreach Volunteer Effort (MOVE) collected school supplies and personal care items for the upcoming Missions trip to El Salvador, and second-year medical student Megan Thompson collected gently-used prescription eyeglasses from students, faculty, and staff for the trip.  The eyeglasses will be given to children in the orphanages there.
  • And every year, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine Sigma Sigma Psi chapter organizes an effort to decorate a Christmas tree with the names and ages of at-risk children receiving care at Northern Home. PCOM students choose a child and purchase and wrap a gift for him/her.
  • The students’ holiday activities extend to medical service as well. A large contingent of Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine students traveled with Director of International Medicine Dr. John Williamson on an annual holiday break mission trip to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to provide care to those in critical need.

And these are just some examples; osteopathic medical students at campuses across the country engaged in holiday giving that extended far beyond their circle of family and friends.

I am extraordinarily proud of our students and their compassionate commitment to service, and I hope that in 2013, you will join them in their efforts. Working together, we can make a difference.

I wish all readers a happy and healthy New Year

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Dec 2012 / Vol. 6, No. 12
Jan 2013 / Vol. 7, No. 1