reanne Hirshman's four-week rotation at the Naval Hospital Beaufort in South Carolina this past October was an invaluable learning experience that prepared her to serve patients as a future DO. This assignment afforded Breanne—National Chair of the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents (COSGP) and OMS III at A.T. Still University of Health Sciences School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA)—a new opportunity to engage in family care.
“It was rewarding to work with a different patient population,” she said. “Many patients were in their teens, twenties, or thirties, and many of them came to appointments with their spouses and children. Some patients had recently returned from traveling overseas, which required a different set of differential diagnoses that I had not yet encountered in my clinical training…It was definitely a unique opportunity.”
ATSU-SOMA's affiliation with Navy Hospital Beaufort also contributed to Breanne's understanding of how medicine is practiced. Working alongside health care professionals in this setting, she saw first-hand how the full scope of services can be offered to patients in a continuum of care that treats the person as a whole.
“All of the Naval Hospital services are housed within one building,” she explained. “In a single visit, patients can meet with a clinician, obtain new or existing medicines from the pharmacy, have their blood drawn at the lab, and get x-rays taken. It was a collaborative environment, and everyone worked together to make sure the job got done. It was phenomenal to finally witness a patient-centered approach to medicine. Additionally, I was impressed to learn that patients’ records were available from all over the world.”
Faith L. Polkey, MD, MPH, Regional Director of Medical Education (RDME) at ATSU-SOMA's South Carolina campus, agrees that clinical rotation experiences for medical students are critical to preparing the physicians of tomorrow to care for patients.
“I wish more students could have those opportunities in medical school because it adds to their experience," she said. "A well rounded experience makes you better prepared and better exposed for when you have your own practice.”
As RDME, Dr. Polkey identifies ATSU-SOMA students to work in clinical rotations at Naval Hospital Beaufort. This partnership offers medical students opportunities to see first-hand how different patient populations are served.
The whole patient approach that defines osteopathic medicine also positions DO students like Breanne to help patients in unique ways. Dr. Polkey, who has worked with ATSU-SOMA as RDME since Naval Hospital Beaufort began its clinical rotation partnership with the school in 2007, says osteopathic medical training offers distinct advantages to future physicians.
“Being able to give relief to a patient with your hands is an extra tool in the toolkit" for osteopathic students, she said. "I’ve appreciated working with the students. Our school only accepts students who have a commitment to the underserved and who have a professed commitment to take care of those who otherwise might not be taken care of. Those are the kinds of doctors we want to come back to our community.”