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M.A. Biomedical Sciences Technical Standards

Technical Standards For Admission & Continued Enrollment In The VCOM D.O. Program


General Overview:

  1. Students must be able to function in a variety of learning and clinical settings and to quickly, accurately, and consistently learn and process data in order to succeed in the medical school curriculum and to meet technical standards for safely practicing osteopathic medicine as a physician. As the medical school program is a career path toward the practice of medicine in which students often accumulate great debt, all technical standards are considered in relation to the culmination of a career to the practice of osteopathic medicine. Students are also subject to external performance testing on national boards as a requirement for graduation and to practice osteopathic medicine.
  2. As osteopathic medicine believes a good physician must be a primary care generalist first (skills learned in undergraduate and the first year of residency before moving to specialized training later in residency), students must meet technical skills to perform as a primary care osteopathic physician in order to successfully complete the curriculum. Osteopathic primary care physicians utilize a hands-on approach to the examination and treatment of a patient; therefore, the following technical skills are required:


I. Observation

Touch: Osteopathic medicine requires a physician to exhibit the sense of touch for examination. The education of the osteopathic student; therefore, requires a student to be comfortable and have the ability to touch a human being of both sexes as part of learning the osteopathic approach to diagnosis and treatment. As part of the educational process, VCOM students must learn to palpate or touch patients and understand the impact of human touch. The only reasonable approach in our physical diagnosis and OMM laboratories is then for a student to touch and to tolerate being touched. Therefore, students who wish to attend VCOM must agree in writing to touch others in order to acquire the skills necessary for palpation and examination of peers (classmates) and to be touched by peers in these laboratories. In addition, students must learn the maneuvers of manipulative treatment while under supervision in the learning environment and fulfill the role of both patient and future physician. Prior to matriculation students must sign a waiver whereby they agree to touch other students in the process of examination and to be touched, and to participate in the student practice sessions for of osteopathic manipulative medicine skills. Acquiring the skills to palpate and examine patients requires examination of disrobed patients of both genders; therefore, examination of fellow students of both genders, who may be partially disrobed, is required. These are requirements for all students, regardless of cultural or religious beliefs, in order for the student to acquire the skills necessary to safely practice osteopathic medicine. Students who have any concerns or questions should discuss them with the Vice President for Student Services prior to applying.

Vision: Osteopathic physicians utilize visual inspection to examine the position and balance of the musculoskeletal system; tissue texture changes; skin lesions and rash types; skin, nail, and mucus membrane color; eyes (including fundoscopic); ears, nose, throat; genitalia; and other areas in the process of diagnosis. Vision is also required to master fine skills such as suturing or using a scalpel, and surgical removal of foreign bodies or certain tissues, and other surgical procedures. Vision is required to interpret many diagnostic tests, including, but not limited to: x-ray, CT scan, MRI, and PET scan. The student must be able to visually observe changes in the human body, laboratory demonstrations, microscopic tissue with the aid of the microscope, and computer-based pictures used in laboratory demonstrations. The student must be able to visually and accurately observe physical signs and symptoms of a patient used in diagnosis and management. The use of a trained intermediary to perform such activities does not result in the same level of competency when mediated by another individual’s power of selection, observation, and experience, nor does it assure that the secondary person’s perceptions are accurate who do not have an equal education. Therefore, to be a successful applicant and student, correctable vision to a level meeting these requirements is necessary.

Hearing: The sense of hearing for auscultation is required in osteopathic medicine to listen for the sounds of bodily functions such as heartbeat, murmurs, blood pressure, lung sounds, bowel sounds, the flow of blood through vessels, and other sounds associated with normal and abnormal findings. Reasonable accommodations may be made for students with hearing loss in the use of specialized stethoscopes and with the student using their own personal hearing aids. The aids must lead to a reasonable hearing level to identify normal from abnormal body sounds.

Smell: An osteopathic physician also uses the sense of smell, and although not considered an essential sense, is not easily accommodated.

II. Communication

The student must be able to communicate orally and effectively in English as the curriculum and clinical experiences are offered in English and the physician must be able to effectively communicate with patients to offer safe and effective medical care. Students are encouraged to learn other languages for medical communication; however, all curriculum and assessment is given in English. VCOM requires the functional ability to speak, hear, and observe patients in order to elicit accurate medical information. The student must learn and demonstrate the ability to gather medical information in a humanistic manner and must be able both to recognize and describe changes in mood, activity, posture, and other physical characteristics and to perceive nonverbal communication required in patient-centered medicine. The student must be able to communicate through accurate writing and typing, and through verbal conversation that effectively and efficiently communicates with the patient and all members of the health care team. This requirement is essential to safe and high-quality patient care. The student must be able to demonstrate these forms of effective communication including, in a taped video setting with standardized patients in the first two years and in the clinical setting during the OMS 3 and 4 years. Students are also required to read large volumes of medical literature in order to learn the required information for practicing medicine. This requires a proficiency in reading and the ability to complete all coursework in the given timeframe. Reasonable accommodations that can be provided include: spellcheck and extended time for exams.

III. Motor & Physical

Students must have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, percussion, and other diagnostic measures. The student must have sufficient motor function to carry out maneuvers of general medical care and emergency care. Students must have sufficient motor function to perform osteopathic manipulation. Examples of emergent motor functions are cardiopulmonary resuscitation, administration of intravenous fluids and intravenous medications, management of an obstructed airway, hemorrhage control, closure by suturing of wounds, and obstetrical deliveries. In addition, the delivery of osteopathic manipulation requires the use of extremities in palpation, positioning, and carrying out maneuvers of manipulation. These actions require fine and gross motor and sensory function. Students must be able to perform these maneuvers. Students who have conditions that do not allow physically taxing workloads must consider the long hours of study, the hours required in the classroom and laboratories, the physical strength required in the osteopathic examination and treatment, and to stand and walk for long hours in the clinical setting.

IV. Intellectual

The student must have the ability to reason, calculate, analyze, measure, and synthesize information in order to critically evaluate the patient and the most recent evidence-based information for treatment. The student must be able to comprehend, memorize, synthesize, and recall a large amount of information without assistance, to successfully complete the curriculum and to safely and successfully practice osteopathic medicine.

The student must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand spatial relationships as it pertains to body chemicals and microscopic functions to anatomical functions in order to succeed in school and to administer safe medical care. The student must be able to gain knowledge through all types of learning materials that the VCOM curriculum offers and must be able to perform pattern identification, memorization, recall information, to identify and discriminate important information, and to problem solve.

The intellectual abilities described above are necessary for the practice of osteopathic medicine. Therefore, the VCOM curriculum requires students to examine patients, calculate and make medical decisions in timed testing situations, and in the presence of noise and distraction, all of which a physician faces wherever medicine is practiced. Students must consider these requirements at the time of application and must also consider whether or not they can meet these technical standards in our curriculum and in the practice of medicine. Once enrolled, students must maintain their ability to meet these technical standards to make academic progress and succeed in the curriculum.

In order to pass the third and fourth year of medical school and to complete the first year of residency training, students and graduates will be expected and required to perform pattern identification, immediate recall of memorized material, identification and discrimination to elicit important information, problem-solving, and decision-making as to emergent diagnosis and treatment of patients in urgent and emergent settings. This type of demonstrated intellectual ability must be performed in a rapid and time-efficient manner so as not to place patients in emergent conditions at risk, which may occur in the presence of visually distracting and noisy environments. Such emergent situations include, but are not limited to, cardiopulmonary compromise, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, obstetrical and neonatal emergencies, trauma presentations, poisonings and toxic exposures, shock, and hemorrhage. For the student, these situations are simulated, taught, and tested in the classroom, clinical setting, and in the simulated medicine testing laboratories.

Ability in Standardized Test Taking: In addition, VCOM’s accreditor, the COCA, requires students to pass COMLEX Level I, Level 2-CE, and Level 2-PE exams prior to graduation; therefore, students must be able to perform satisfactorily on timed, computerized, and clinical performance comprehensive standardized exams. NBOME determines the student’s ability to receive accommodations (or not) for this exam and; therefore, the student’s ability to pass the board exams with the accommodation level awarded by NBOME is the technical standard. Students may ask NBOME to be reviewed for accommodations.

V. Behavioral & Mental Health Attributes

The student must have the emotional health needed for full use of his/her intellectual capabilities at all times. The emotional health required for effective communication and for professional, ethical, mature, sensitive, and compassionate patient/physician or patient/student relationships must be present. Students must be able to function effectively under the high degree of stress and testing required in medical school, in COMLEX national board testing, as well as in specialty board certification at the end of residency. Students who suffer from serious mood disorders and/or test anxiety should strongly consider if they will meet this technical standard, as they are essential to the success of a physician in being able to practice. Students must be able to tolerate mentally taxing workloads. Students who have conditions that do not allow mentally taxing workloads must consider the long hours of study and the hours required in the classroom and laboratories, and the long hours required in the clinical setting.

Students must have the emotional health to be able to safely care for patients without medication known to adversely affect intellectual abilities and clinical judgment. The student must have the emotional stability and motivation to deliver patient care and to make emergent decisions at all times. The ability to adapt to changing environments and stressful situations and to display compassion and integrity, while maintaining the necessary intellectual capacity to care for patients is one that is observed during the interview process and throughout the progress in medical school. An ability to demonstrate the emotional health necessary for the delivery of quality and safe medical care is mandatory throughout medical school. VCOM and the medical institutions they collaborate with for clinical training consider serious mental illness, that does not allow safe coherent reasoning or that may cause a risk to the patients for unsafe medical care, a reason for not accepting a student, or for dismissal. VCOM also considers substance abuse a serious mental illness that may cause a risk to patients for unsafe medical care.

VI. Professional & Ethical Attributes

Students must have the professional and ethical capabilities to effectively and safely care for patients. This requires the student to demonstrate careful and safe decision making at all times, to be free from addiction, to discriminate between legal and illegal behaviors, to make moral rather than immoral decisions, to make ethical rather than unethical decisions, and to demonstrate professional rather than unprofessional behaviors. These same behaviors are expected of students throughout their program. Professional and ethical attributes are those expected of a physician by all of society and generally by medical boards. These attributes are those that instill a sense of trust by patients in the medical community.

Requesting Assistance with Disabilities as an Applicant 

VCOM applicants must self-identify if they do not meet technical standards.  VCOM assures that no adverse view of the application will be made if accommodations are requested.  In order for VCOM to provide reasonable accommodations, candidates must identify to the Office of Admissions all areas where accommodations will be needed in order to be successful in the educational program or where there is question in meeting these technical standards.  Applicants who, with assistance, can meet the Technical Standards for Admission and Successful Completion of the Osteopathic Program to be successful in the VCOM curriculum and to safely and competently practice medicine may be considered for admission.

If admitted, students who will require accommodations must provide adequate documentation, including, but not limited to, psychometric testing, medical records, and prior educational records.  Students with disabilities must complete the VCOM Section 504 eligibility paperwork as a part of the process for applying for eligibility for accommodations, through the Center for Institutional, Faculty, and Student Success.  VCOM makes reasonable accommodations including seating arrangement adjustments, visual or auditory aids, and other classroom or learning needs.  Examples of assistance include: wireless auditory assists for each classroom; a curriculum that is provided visually online and verbally in the classroom so that various learning styles may be met; extended test-taking times are given for every exam extending up to twice the normal time for national board test items; and all test-taking environments at VCOM are quiet and monitored so as to be free from distraction and noise.  However, to assure accommodations may be made for a disability, the applicant should enquire about the ability of the institution to accommodate their disability through the Center for Institutional, Faculty, and Student Success.

Students who require controlled substances or other prescriptions that will show positive on the University drug screen must notify the University in advance of the drug screen and must have undergone the Section 504 Eligibility process, which includes appropriate documentation as to the need for these drugs as a Section 504 accommodation. VCOM may require further evaluation and testing for continued use of controlled substances, at the student’s expense.

If you have questions regarding VCOM’s assistance for a specific disability, please contact the Center for Institutional, Faculty, and Student Success.

Students who fail in the curriculum or who are suspended or dismissed may not claim failure due to disability if they have not previously identified the disability and requested reasonable accommodations in advance of the curricular failure.

After reviewing the aforementioned standards, please complete and submit the acceptance form below.

MABS Technical Standards Form

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