A group of students from BCOM’s Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) chapter wrote a resolution advocating for increased nutritional education in the medical school curriculum. During the 2018 Osteopathic Medical Education Conference (OMED) in San Diego, California, the resolution was voted on and passed by the National SOMA organization. “This means that the national organization now holds this resolution, written by our students, to be their official stance on the subject,” explained BCOM student and SOMA National Liaison Officer Shaun Antonio.
SOMA is the student branch of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). Students get a voting seat and have the opportunity to write resolutions reflecting their stances on different issues. These resolutions are then voted on by the AOA. Antonio said the team felt passionate about this particular issue because, “There is a concern, and data that shows, physicians are not adequately prepared to advise patients on basic nutrition, and that this could have numerous health consequences.”
This was the third attempt by a SOMA student group to get a national nutrition curriculum increase. Students from other osteopathic schools have submitted similar resolutions that did not end up passing. BCOM SOMA President Giselle Irio explained, “The first one was a bit too broad and it almost seemed like nothing would get done if that resolution passed. The second was a little too specific and too forward. Ours is a nice in-between and we used the blueprint of the new COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination) to match what we’re learning in the classroom to what we will ultimately be tested on.”
The BCOM team of six medical students completed a training on how to write resolutions and then researched the subject for several weeks. Their resolution states that SOMA encourages the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) “to incorporate adequate levels of nutrition-focused education within colleges of osteopathic medicine curricula of didactic years.” It passed with an overwhelming majority vote.
“One of the main reasons we did this is because obesity is such a big epidemic and it links to so many other diseases,” said BCOM SOMA member Melissa Sayegh. “If as physicians we’re adequately prepared to address the situation before it’s an issue, it would not only benefit us, but also benefit our patients in the long run.”
Second year student Zachary Coffman added, “Patients go to their doctor with the expectation that their doctor is giving them advice on a subject they are very knowledgeable about. But in all reality, many physicians don’t feel entirely comfortable advising their patients when it comes to nutrition. We want to get to the point where all physicians feel confident speaking on this subject.”
While they are thrilled their resolution passed, the BCOM team said this is just the beginning. They are already discussing plans to work on at least three other resolutions in hopes of advocating more change on a national level. “We do these resolutions to make improvements,” Irio explained. “Medical students are the future of our profession, so anything that we pass is to better our careers in the future. We do this so we, as medical students, have a voice.”