Context: It is important for colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) to provide opportunities for osteopathic medical students (OMSs) to conduct research under the guidance of professional researchers. However, COMs historically lag behind allopathic medical schools in research offerings for medical students. The literature would benefit from a synopsis of research opportunities for OMSs at COMs.
Objectives: This study aims to assess the availability of research opportunities currently offered to OMSs and to identify structured research programs (SRPs) to provide data that may help COMs expand such opportunities.
Methods: Two online surveys were developed. The General Survey asked about general research opportunities, research requirements, and SRPs, which we define as optional, intramural, and mentored research programs. The follow-up SRP Survey sought to understand the history, funding, and organizational structure of SRPs. Between February and June 2021, the General and SRP Surveys were sent to all COMs in the United States. Response data were analyzed descriptively.
Results: Responses were received from 32 (84.2%) of 38 COMs. Nearly all COMs offered research symposia, offered third- or fourth-year research elective rotations, and provided some form of funding for OMSs to participate in research. Fourteen (43.8%) COMs had mandatory research requirements. Twenty COMs (62.5%) offered 31 SRPs, and surveys were completed for 25 (80.6%) SRPs. SRPs were founded a median (range) of 7 (1–43) years prior and accommodated 20 (4–50) OMSs annually. Among the responding SRPs, 12.0% had external funding, 96.0% required applications, 50.0% interviewed applicants prior to acceptance into the program, 72.0% required OMSs to identify their own mentors, 68.0% offered stipends to OMSs, 28.0% offered course credits, 96.0% had clinical research opportunities, and 68.0% offered research-oriented didactics. In 84.0% of SRPs, OMSs worked predominantly in the summer after OMS-I; for these SRPs, students had 4–10 weeks of dedicated time for participation in research.
Conclusions: Findings from our surveys provide a synopsis of the research opportunities currently provided by COMs in the United States. Our data demonstrated wide variability of research opportunities among COMs.