Medical EducationOriginal Article

Undergraduate Knowledge of Osteopathic Medicine: What Premedical Students Know About Osteopathic Medicine and Its Effect on Burnout

Philip B. Collins, DO; Laura Collins, MA; Gianna Bowler Darrow, PhD; and Jennifer Sepede, DO
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: March 13, 2020

Accepted: April 29, 2020

Published: November 2, 2020

J Am Osteopath Assoc; 120(12): 855-864

Context: Undergraduate student interest in becoming a physician continues to rise, but so too does the difficulty of earning acceptance to medical school. In this competitive environment, little is known about premedical students’ knowledge of their medical school options. Moreover, as undergraduate students’ emotional health continues to decline, little is known about whether premedical students experience or are at increased risk for the burnout symptoms reported by medical students and other physicians in training.

Objectives: To examine premedical undergraduate students’ knowledge of osteopathic medicine, assess how they learned of osteopathic medicine, and collect information about any reported feelings of burnout.

Methods: In this institutional review board approved study, we electronically distributed an anonymous survey to 342 premedical undergraduate students at a midsize, public research undergraduate institution. The survey included 56 questions. Students were surveyed on their preference of medical schools, knowledge of osteopathic medicine, and experience with burnout via the Maslach Burnout Inventory which measures exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy. Of those who completed the survey, only those who confirmed that they currently considered themselves to be premedical students were included in our analysis. A 2×2 factorial analysis of variance (ANOVA) test was applied to assess main and interaction effects amongst respondents who preferred osteopathic or allopathic programs, whether they learned of osteopathic medicine programs by their own research, and their scores on the 3 measures of the Maslach Burnout Inventory: exhaustion, cynicism, and professional efficacy. Bivariate and factorial analyses were completed using SPSS v26 software (IBM). All tests were 2-tailed and used a .05 standard P value.

Results: Of 342 students to whom the survey was sent, 160 (46.8%) responded, and only 92 (26.9%) considered themselves premedical students. Of the 160 students analyzed in our study, 80 (50%) reported first learning of osteopathic medicine through their own research. A 2×2 factorial ANOVA revealed a significant interaction effect for cynicism in respondents who reported learning of osteopathic medicine programs on their own. Conversely, when respondents reported learning of osteopathic medicine programs from another source, they also reported significantly lower cynicism (F[1,1]5.23, P=.03) and exhaustion (F[1,13] 5.79, P=.02) scores. Of the 92 respondents, only 2 students (2.2%) answered all questions regarding general osteopathic medical knowledge correctly.

Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that among premedical students, knowledge of osteopathic medicine may be incomplete and may be impeding medical school applications. Furthermore, respondents who reported interest in osteopathic medical schools and learned of this option through their own research seemed to experience greater burnout. Based on these findings, increased outreach and education have the potential to not only better inform students of the osteopathic profession, but also to reduce burnout.

Read Full Article