The Arizona Board and Osteopathic Medical School Collaboration Program is a collaboration between Midwestern University (Glendale, Arizona), A.T. Still University (Mesa, Arizona) and the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners in Medicine and Surgery. As a part of this program, the Board allows medical students to attend its regular session meetings. Our goals are to foster medical student education by making this long-standing program an active and engaging experience for the medical students who participate.

The collaboration program was started in 2000 to actively engage and educate students about the process and function of the Board.

The Board typically welcomes about 40 to 60 medical students at each board meeting — approximately 400 students a year. We estimate that nearly 6,000 students have participated in this program over the last 21 years.

The meetings are not only an opportunity to educate students about the process and function of the Board, but also to let them experience public cases that are being reviewed. The Board also uses this time to speak with the students about current trends or topics of relevance in the medical community.

At the conclusion of cases being reviewed during a meeting, Board members discuss with students hypothetical examples of actions that can lead physicians into trouble with medical regulators. Board members may discuss a wide range of issues — from billing fraud and record-keeping to patient-physician communication, training and education deficiencies. Other common topics include credentialing verification services, physician burnout and alcohol and substance use.

We believe that this program is an essential educational tool for both the medical students and the Board. Medical students benefit from exposure to the Board’s process and this exposure oftentimes allows the Board to find “teachable moments”— opportunities for elaborating on specific or detailed information in real-life cases.

Students see the regulatory process in action and can use the opportunity to learn from actual cases; hopefully helping them avoid in the future the common mistakes and violations that physicians sometimes make. The Board meetings provide valuable insights into the investigation process and regulation policies that all licensees should understand.

At the same time, the Board benefits from the discussions with students of what is successful in its work and areas that could be improved upon. It is an opportunity for the Board to raise awareness of its special programs and initiatives — which may be helpful to medical students in the future. While discussing alcohol and substance use with students, for example, we highlight the Board’s Confidential Monitoring Program. These discussions have allowed the Board to highlight the need for support in battling physician burnout and aiding physicians who turn to substances during times of stress.

We believe that the overall exposure to the Board’s programs and operations aids in reducing the fear of the Board that may occur, should a medical student ever be part of a potential complaint. The program helps students begin to see the Board as a partner rather than a roadblock — from the time of their medical education through their eventual careers.

The success of our program can be attributed to our active partnership with the medical schools in Arizona. We partner with A.T. Still University and Midwestern University in Arizona to facilitate the program, with both universities requiring students to attend at least one Board meeting during their third year. Both schools have been excellent partners in this process and the Board appreciates their engagement and facilitation of the program.

As previously noted, a critical component of the program is the interaction that occurs during meetings between Board members and medical students. During their time together, Board members strive to interact with the students, answering their questions and providing a positive and clear understanding of Board functions — which ultimately helps the students understand our purpose and to see the Board as an essential partner in the health care sector.

In the midst of the COVID-19 environment, the Board has explored strategies to facilitate continuation of the program in light of pandemic restrictions — including the use of streaming to allow for remote participation.

Our Board has received many positive comments over the years regarding this program. We often hear students say, prior to attending an actual meeting, that they did not understand why the Board existed or that they felt that the Board was irrelevant to the practice of osteopathic medicine — but that they changed their minds after seeing firsthand the cases the Board handles. In the end, the program helps them understand that the Board exists not only to protect the public but also to ensure that physicians are well-trained and able to perform under the high demands of the health care industry.

About the Author

Justin Bohall is Executive Director of the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners in Medicine and Surgery.