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Aug 6, 2013
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I've narrowed it down to these three schools, but am still undecided, and want to make this decision independent from school cost. At this point, family practice and emergency medicine in rural areas interest me. I'm from Oregon and love the Pacific Northwest, but am not sure I want to remain solely in Oregon for the next four years.
At Comp-NW I felt completely at home and loved the collaboration of students and faculty. I like that the students do their own anatomy dissections as well. I know the third and fourth year rotation sites and believe they are quite good (at least in Portland). The drawbacks are staying in Lebanon and I'm not sure about the smaller size of the facilities.
I also loved the collaboration and smaller class size I witnessed at AT Still (Mesa). The Students seemed genuinely happy and to already know their instructors quite well. The 3 years of clinicals are extremely appealing, and I got my first pick (the NW where I can move around from site to site and state to state). Drawbacks- distance learning during year two, increased workload of rotations plus studying for boards and classes as well as not dissecting your own cadaver (unless you join anatomy club).
AZCOM seemed to have their routine down completely. They seemed to stress the basic sciences more than Western or AT Still, but still had many clinical learning opportunities. Their facilities were the most impressive (14 sims, huge anatomy labs where students do their own dissections, "real campus" feel). Also, I feel that the school may have more opportunities for students wishing to specialize.
Drawbacks- the school didn't have quite the same friendly, tight knight atmosphere. The class size is over double Western and AT Still and I got the feeling that students are more competitive with each other (less collaborative).
Thanks for your thoughts/input!

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I don't know a whole lot about SOMA and COMP but if you are going for a non-competitive residency save the 100k and don't go to AZCOM.
I don't normally chime in on these because I think the conversations become a popularity contest for programs (and by the way I go to none of these three) but based on your remarks, it sounds like you will probably be happiest with what COMP NW has to offer. There is no bad choice but I tend to believe that you will find the most success at the place you have a natural feel with. SOMA has a polarizing style and you seem to still desire a bit of the traditional structure.
Given that you are not totally sold on AZCOM, paying their bill for 4 years is a major decision, don't be fooled to think its not. The decision to go to school is in itself a serious investment that will take time and years to repay, consider whether you want to be impartial from the differences in cost when you make this choice.
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With respect to SOMA, don't be mistaken in thinking there are 3 years of clinicals, there aren't. What you get is about 4-8 hours of clinical "exposure" per week during second year. While it is great for prepping your H+P skills in preparation for 3rd year, it's not at all like doing a rotation(s). You will still have a demanding didactic schedule second year as well. They front load the curriculum in first year in order to clear time for the clinics, but you're still just as busy/stressed as you were in first year to be honest.

That being said, I'm of the opinion that SOMA's curriculum, while unique, is uniquely strong for prepping students to be great clinicians. There's a lot to be said about having basic and clinical sciences integrated and presented in context 100% of the time. There's no wondering how something you learned is applicable because it's taught to you in the context of how and where it applies. I can't say enough about how I feel it has helped me approach real world medical problems already in my 3rd year. I've even been able to "teach" some of my preceptors a few things that SOMA's curriculum taught me when we had complicated patients.

My advice despite what I have written above, is to choose wherever you see yourself being the most at home and comfortable. Med school is stressful enough without throwing dissatisfaction with location/living arrangements into the mix. Plus, it's DO school, they're all good, and I really don't think any one school is appreciably better at the end of the day. Dumbest thing you could do is go somewhere you weren't totally happy with, pay more in tuition somewhere you weren't totally happy with, or both.

Best of luck with the decision making process, we'll see you at SOMA this august ;)