Context: Premedical preparatory programs at osteopathic medical schools that recruit students from medically underserved areas (MUAs) may promote interest in practicing osteopathic medicine in underserved or rural areas. In these programs, emphasis on cultural competency may increase diversity among medical school applicants and decrease healthcare disparities in the future.
Objectives: The goal of this study is to determine whether a summer premedical rural enrichment program (PREP) held at an osteopathic medical school located in a MUA will foster greater prioritization of cultural competency in medicine, enhance interest in practicing in rural or underserved areas, and increase familiarity with osteopathic medicine.
Methods: An eight-week summer PREP was hosted at the California Health Sciences University College of Osteopathic Medicine (CHSU-COM) in Clovis, California. Seventy-eight diverse participants were recruited from the Central Valley, an underserved region of California. Attendees were required to finish the formal application process and were recommended to have completed medical school prerequisite courses. The curriculum included Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) preparation through team-based learning sessions, introduction to the osteopathic medical school curriculum, osteopathic philosophy, and osteopathic manipulative medicine, as well as integrated anatomy and physiology sessions, medical school application workshops, mock interviews, simulation workshops, and sociology and cultural competency sessions. Data were collected via a voluntary and anonymous survey administered before and after the program with questions about familiarity with osteopathy, interest in practicing in underserved areas, medical school preparedness, and a post-course survey about cultural competency. The surveys had students rate statements on a Likert scale.
Results: Seventy-four of the 78 premedical students (95%) completed the pre-and postsurvey. There was a significant increase in agreement to statements evaluating medical school preparedness, osteopathic familiarity, and desire to practice medicine locally in the postprogram survey, compared to the preprogram survey. In the cultural competency postsurvey, 75.0% of the responses to questions that evaluated the positive effect of the course were “Agree” or “Strongly Agree.” Of the reported postcourse outcomes, the average MCAT score was 504 ± 6.2 (38 students reported, 50.7%). Of the 27 participants who reported matriculation, 16 (59.2%) were admitted to osteopathic medical schools, 9 (33.3%) to allopathic medical schools, and 2 to other health programs.
Conclusions: After completing the PREP program, premedical participants reported that they have better understanding of cultural competency and improvement in preparation for medical school, including familiarity with osteopathic medicine, and interest in serving MUAs. These findings indicate that similar programs may have a positive impact on MUAs. These programs may help create diverse and culturally competent osteopathic physicians.