2021 “OsteoCHAMPS in a Box”: A look at this year’s virtual program


We talk to Mollie Mfodwo, M.S., manager of pre-college programs, about OsteoCHAMPS.


Q: Can you give a quick overview of OsteoCHAMPS?

A:  OsteoCHAMPS was established in 2000, so it’s been running for over 20 years. We’ve served 650 sophomore and junior high school students from across the nation, although the majority of the students are from Michigan.

The program was launched to help create a pathway to osteopathic medical school by exposing students from underserved backgrounds to osteopathic medicine and to open doors to learn about the osteopathic approach that may not have been afforded to them otherwise.

Over half of students who attend OsteoCHAMPS go on to participate in our undergraduate Osteopathic Medical Scholars Program, which continues to foster their interest and skill sets to get them ready for medical school, and over 90% of those OMSP students go on to matriculate into the College of Osteopathic Medicine.

We’re unique in the way we run our pre-college program—it’s longer than other med schools’ programs, and brings together peers from across the nation. We also work with community partners and donors to fund scholarships for students to ensure the program is truly accessible.

Q: Tell us about the 2021 cohort.

A:  The 2021 cohort consists of 60 students, the same as our in-person trainings. This year, all the students hail from Michigan.  This year’s group is very bright and engaged, which is reflective of our rigorous applicant review process—we get over 100 applications for 60 spots. All the students had their video on and asked insightful questions in every session.

Q: How many faculty, staff, and students are involved in putting on OsteoCHAMPS?

A:  Over 50 faculty, staff, SpartanDO students, and OMSP undergraduate students are involved in the program. All sessions are taught by faculty or staff, and all volunteer their time. Med students drop in to different sessions to provide more insights, and OMSP students tutor the high school students throughout the week.

We also bring in as many diverse faculty and students as we can so all the participants have someone to connect to. It’s important for students to see someone they can relate to and aspire to be. We talk about health disparities, bias, the importance of paying attention to patients, and other hard conversations.

Q: How did you engage students in this year’s virtual format?

A:  We built on the lessons we learned from running the program virtually for the first time last year due to the pandemic. The faculty pulled together to transition the sessions virtually. This year, we mailed students an “OsteoCHAMPS In A Box” kit, providing tools to facilitate their learning in every session. For the osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) training session, students received mini skulls used to showcase parts of our anatomy where OMM can be used to treat various illnesses. Students also palpated their own skin or a family member during the session. For clinical skills, they received future doctor kits that contained stethoscopes and other medical tools. Students were able to listen to their own heartbeat and work with medical students on other skills.
We also divided the students into six groups to work on research projects, led by DO/PhD student, Luca Kaiser. Students use google drive and google slides to collaborate, and at the end they’ll present at a virtual ceremony. This gives them more insight into higher level research skills.

The students get additional tutoring and mentorship from an undergraduate OMSP tutor counselor throughout the week to increase their engagement. They’re able to interact with faculty, staff, medical students, undergraduate students, program alumni, and each other to get a wide range of perspectives related to the field.

All the students this week have really enjoyed the program.

Q: What’s unique about this year’s program?

A:  We shortened the program to avoid Zoom fatigue. The in-person program is eight days long with packed, 12-hour days. The virtual format runs for five hours per day (10 am – 3 pm), for five days (Monday through Friday). It’s well-received so far.

The theme for this year is Mental Health and Wellness—it’s pertinent to the experiences associated with the pandemic, and we address physician burnout, mental health conditions, and the impact of social media on mental health. The kits we mailed home included wellness items, such as an adult coloring book and bubbles, for wellness activities led by Dr. John Taylor and Dr. Miko Rose. We also showed students some wellness routines they can practice at home, such as a daily Tai Chi session led by an OMS-II student.

Q: How do you continue to engage students after the program closes?

A:  Program participants are automatically enrolled into our Alumni Association, which includes graduates of all our pre-college programs. There’s lots of benefits, and we get to engage with them again if they join OMSP in undergrad. We’re also looking to expand our post-program engagement through monthly check-ins.

Q: What’s next for OsteoCHAMPS?

A:  We’re planning to launch an OsteoCHAMPS in the Upper Peninsula next summer to make the program more accessible to rural students. We’re partnering closely with War Memorial Hospital on that project.

Q: Any other messages you’d like to share?

A:  We’re always looking for new partners and to get the word out about the program.