Partnership Provides Unique Learning OpportunitiesAugust 24, 2016
Sandra Ross (far left), LSW, MSA Program Administrator, leads a discussion with PCOM
students at a weekly team meeting. (Photo credit: Main Line Health)
For the past three years, second year Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) students at PCOM have had the unique opportunity to participate in the Medical Student
Advocate (MSA) program, a partnership with Lankenau Medical Center—part of Main Line
Health. The benefit of the program is two-fold; it helps address some of the unique
socioeconomic barriers to health care for underserved patients, and it provides second-year
medical students with early exposure to patients in a clinical setting.
Most medical students don’t encounter patients until third year when they begin clerkships.
But for five hours a week throughout the academic year, MSAs from PCOM serve as part
of patient-centered medical home (PCMH) teams at Lankenau Medical Associates, a primary
care and subspecialty practice at Lankenau Medical Center. The teams are comprised
of physicians, nurses, social workers and medical assistants, all working together
to deliver comprehensive care.
The MSA’s role is to connect with an assigned patient and ensure the patient has access
to resources that will help maintain their health and keep them out of the hospital.
Students assist their patients with issues such as lack of transportation to appointments,
or insurance coverage, and continue their follow up until their patient has received
the resources and assistance he or she needs.
“I enjoyed talking to the patients, and it was a consistent conversation, not just
one-and-done,” said Alaynna Kears (DO ’17). “Learning to communicate with patients
is an important part of what we’ll be doing as doctors, and with this program, I feel
better prepared for that.”
“Because it lasts the entire year, it really helps put in perspective why we’re in
medical school,” said Brandon Yorty (DO ’17). “We can sometimes get lost in the textbooks
and the lectures, but this program allows us to see beyond that, to see why this is
all worth it.”
According to an article published in the Ochsner Journal earlier this year, students in the MSA program were shown to have served nearly 370
patients with more than 700 identified needs. Further, both students and faculty reported
that the program enhanced understanding of the holistic nature of patient care.
“This program gives PCOM students the opportunity to see the whole patient and focus
on what’s happening outside the doctors’ office,” said Sandra Ross, LSW, one of the
paper’s authors and the program administrator for the MSA program. “The PCOM students
have been incredible to work with. They are eager to learn and have a great ability
to respect the dignity of the patients they are interacting with.”
In addition to earlier patient interaction and exposure to clinical settings, the
MSA program also offers students the opportunity to take part in the Main Line Health-PCOM
Core Clinical Campus. Through it, students can complete their third-year core clerkships
within the Main Line Health System. As a result, many former MSAs encounter their
patients again on their clerkships, encouraging full continuity of care.
Kenneth Veit, DO ’76, MBA, provost, senior vice president for academic affairs and dean, says the MSA program
dovetails seamlessly with the osteopathic philosophy and offers participating students
a breadth of educational experiences they may not otherwise get so early in their
“PCOM is always seeking opportunities to build bridges for future health care providers,”
he said. “Main Line Health’s clinical mission aligns with our educational focus on
treating the whole patient, not just their symptoms, and this partnership offers our
students the ability to be part of a team-based approach to patient care, which is
on the forefront of health care.”
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About Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands
of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists
who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms.
PCOM operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic
medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in
applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic
medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, non profit leadership
and population health management, organizational development and leadership, physician
assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration.
PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service
to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care
to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.
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