Context: Despite the increase of importance placed on research, both by residency program directors and the medical field at large, osteopathic medical students (OMS) have significantly fewer research experiences than United States (U.S.) allopathic medical students and non-U.S. international medical graduates. However, few studies have addressed this long-standing discrepancy, and none directly have focused on osteopathic medical students to assess their unique needs. The literature would benefit from identifying the barriers osteopathic medical students encounter when participating in research and understanding the currently available resources.
Objectives: To assess the barriers that OMS face when seeking research opportunities, identify resources currently available to osteopathic medical students at their respective schools, and investigate factors that contribute to an osteopathic medical student’s desire to pursue research opportunities. Additionally, to investigate osteopathic medical students’ confidence in research methodology.
Methods: A survey was created by the investigators and administered to participants over a three-month period via a GoogleForm. Research participants were surveyed for demographic information, as well as their involvement in research projects in the past, mentor availability, institutional resources, motivation to participate in research, individual barriers to participation, and confidence in their ability to do independent research. Responses were de-identified and analyzed using Microsoft Excel functions to count data and calculate percentages, as well as Pearson’s chi square analysis.
Results: After relevant exclusion, 668 responses were included. Of the students surveyed, 85.9% (574) indicated they currently and/or in the past were involved in research. More than half of the respondents that are not currently involved in research are interested in pursuing it (86.9%; 344). The primary barriers students reported facing include lack of time (57.8%; 386), feeling overwhelmed and unsure how to start (53.4%; 357), and lack of access to research (53%; 354). 34.7% (232) of students stated they either did not have resources from their school or were unsure whether these resources were available. The two most cited motivations to pursue research included boosting their residency application and/or interest in the area of study. Male gender and current research were associated with reported confidence in research ( [4, n=662]=10.6, p<0.05).
Conclusions: Findings from this study provide a synopsis of the barriers to research opportunities among osteopathic medical students. Notably, ⅓ of OMSs reported an absence or unawareness of available research resources at their osteopathic medical schools.