Osteopathic Journal Club connects research, clinical work, patient care


Last year, Travis Gordon, D.O., created a new way for SpartanDO students to engage in research and clinical practice earlier in their careers. As the world turned to video conferencing technology to connect safely, Gordon leveraged the university’s digital infrastructure to allow students in Michigan to tap into hands-on global health projects in other countries.

“My favorite thing is teaching, so I decided to start up an osteopathic journal club,” Gordon says. “More than anything, it’s about perspective-building. I want students to understand that osteopathic research exists, and there are ways we can do it so students connect research with clinical work and patient care. The reason research exists is to aid our clinical decision-making.”  

The Lansing native is now based in Merida, on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, as a faculty member at both the College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Institute for Global Health. He works at a clinic in Hospital General Dr. Agustín O'Horán, a large public hospital, where he focuses on community outreach, collaborative research and educational exchange. When the pandemic gained speed, he worked for three months in the hospital’s COVID-19 unit, utilizing osteopathic techniques to help patients eat and drink while also serving as a patient advocate. It was in the midst of this work that he realized there was an opportunity for him to inspire SpartanDO students’ passions for research and form new, albeit virtual, connections during an isolating period, and the idea for the Osteopathic Journal Club was born.

The Osteopathic Journal Club meets virtually every two weeks and is geared toward first- and second-year students who are interested in developing a deeper understanding of osteopathic principles and applying them to patient care.

Research is a main focus of the club because, as Gordon points out, a common misconception about osteopathic medicine is that there is little to no evidence showing exactly why it brings patients such profound relief. “There is actually a lot, but we always need more,” he says.

Gordon hopes to inspire students to embrace applied OMM philosophies and contribute to the body of research by giving a lecture on a new topic to club members at the beginning of every month, highlighting the research material they will be studying for the next two weeks, then meeting again mid-month to discuss the research findings. “I want students to see the patient as a person and not just a body or a recipient of medication. They need to be open to patients’ complexities,” Gordon adds.

Recently, Gordon engaged students in research with direct clinical application to improve patient lives in Peru. Working with a small group of maternal health students during a week-long trip earlier this year, Gordon and the team treated women with lower back pain caused by C-section scarring. The students tested the patients using pain scale, goniometry and adheremetry, treated them using myofascial release to mobilize the scar tissue, and then tested them again. They found statistically significant results despite the small and somewhat informal nature of the study.

According to Emma Ford, OMS-II, an avid member and student leader of the Osteopathic Journal Club, the journal club members were “in awe” of the research and Gordon’s enthusiastic presentation of it. They decided they wanted to participate too, so now the club is in the process of setting up a protocol to perform C-section scar research in the coming months. The goal is to conduct a multi-site study and publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal. Students appreciate the hands-on research experience and opportunity for publication early on in their medical careers.

“I’m learning from the students, too—they think of things I never would,” Gordon explains. “I’m trying to show the students in the club that none of us know everything. Every osteopath needs to be their own leader.”