A look at life after medical school


On May 7, 2021, the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine will graduate nearly 300 new D.O.s into the profession.

As the Class of 2021 prepares to wrap up the medical school portion of their journey and apply for licensure before starting their graduate medical education in July, many are planning to work, volunteer and recharge.

Tristan Worthington, OMS-IV, plans to continue working at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic where he’s been administering vaccines since February 2021. Metro Health Hospital in Grand Rapids, his base hospital for clinical rotations the past two years, reached out to its residents and medical students looking for additional support in the clinic.

“It’s great to be a part of the solution to COVID-19,” he said. “It’s nice to feel like I’m contributing and putting an end to the pandemic.”

The former phlebotomist and medical assistant trainer recommends volunteering or working at a vaccination site if the opportunity arises.

“It’s a great experience (it’s not scary!), people receiving the vaccine are very appreciative and it doesn’t take a lot of technical skills,” he said. “I jumped at the opportunity because I’ve wanted to do more and use my training. I’m continuing at Metro Health Hospital for my residency in family medicine, so it’s a great way to get to know the community more and do my part to help.”

Other students might continue with volunteer opportunities they engaged in while at MSU—such as with Detroit Street Care, community clinics or student group initiatives—or seek new volunteer opportunities.

On the personal front, many new physicians are relocating to the area of their residency program and finding a place to live, going home to visit family or using the time to recharge. One such student is Sarah Yates, OMS-IV, who will visit family before relocating to Indianapolis for a residency in internal medicine at Indiana University.

Yates just returned from a global health trip to Malawi and said the experience seeing “Malawian clinicians ‘work with what we’ve got’ and utilize the resources, tools and skills available” has influenced her future practice—she aims to “be as flexible in my approach to all aspects of patient care as the physicians in Malawi and to always strive for judicious use of resources.”

Like many SpartanDOs, she plans to continue global health trips in the future.

“Global health is challenging, rewarding and above all an opportunity for tremendous personal and academic growth,” she said. “An important factor for me in choosing my residency program was the availability of global health involvement and elective opportunities.”

Layered on top of the personal pursuits, these new osteopathic physicians must apply for licensure in the state in which they will begin residency, a requirement that must be completed before their first day. Graduate medical education programs help the incoming residents with onboarding, which includes their application for an educational limited or full license, depending on state regulations and program requirements. The initial licensure is based on completion of two COMLEX-USA licensure board exams taken between the second and third years of medical school, and again during the third or fourth year. New osteopathic physicians can become fully licensed after they take their final COMLEX-USA exam during the first year of residency training.

“The Class of 2021 completed most of their clinical rotation training under pandemic conditions,” said Kirsten Waarala, DO and the associate dean for medical education at the college. “What’s impressive to me is that they have endured COVID-19 and all its challenges with great resilience, and had a tremendously successful match.”

This year, 275 students matched for a 99% match rate, placing into 22 specialties across 22 states. The majority (79%) placed in Michigan, and 56% placed into the college’s Statewide Campus System, or SCS.

“We’re fortunate here in Michigan to have a strong SCS network,” explained Waarala. “Our graduates in these programs will receive a great education and training experience, and many will come back and serve as clinical adjunct faculty.” Waarala, herself, is an MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine graduate who returned in an administrative capacity in 2015.

Waarala’s advice to graduating SpartanDOs:

“Remember that learning doesn’t always follow a schedule or plan. Stay open to learning from the whole health care team—and your patients—during residency.”