Students in their first and second year of the doctor of osteopathic medicine program can enroll in the Chronic Care in the Community Osteopathic Professional Education (C.O.P.E.) program.
This elective gives students an opportunity to study the psychological, financial, physical and interpersonal impact of chronic illnesses such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease – on particular patients assigned to them. Students are paired with each other and make periodic visits to the patient’s home, hospital and/or doctor’s office, where they can learn all aspects of the patient’s condition including medication management, tests performed and treatments. A faculty or staff mentor assists with the student’s progress throughout the program and helps direct their study and experiences. Students meet regularly on campus and in small group discussions via the internet, to share what has been learned and discuss what issues they have confronted or issues confronted by patients and their families/significant others.
The elective can continue up to four years, depending on a student’s availability. Thus, a patient can be followed for an extended period of time and students can observe the course of disease management. Students are encouraged to document their experiences by journaling as well as reading various articles about chronic illness, learning about the specific patient diagnoses and treatment, while also learning objective assessments of their patient’s disease process. The goal of C.O.P.E. is for students to become more compassionate caregivers.