In March 2017, then-first-year DMU osteopathic medical students Pat Gilson and Valeriya Korchina were stuck at St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport when their flight back to Des Moines was delayed. As delegates for DMU’s Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) chapter, they had just attended SOMA’s national spring convention. Excited about SOMA’s mission as the nation’s largest network of osteopathic medical students and the student-led affiliate of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), Gilson and Korchina decided to use their airport time to brainstorm.
“You don’t really know how SOMA works until you go to a conference,” says Korchina, who served as president of DMU’s chapter in 2017-2018. “Pat and I sat down to discuss ways we could make SOMA more active at DMU.”
They had big ambitions and, one year later, big results. This March at the SOMA national spring convention, the DMU chapter was named the SOMA Chapter of the Year and, as such, brought home the Golden Femur Award.
“This was a major accomplishment for their chapter leaders after all the hard work they put into the year,” says D. Tyler King, the Region IV trustee on the SOMA Board of Trustees and a student at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine in Arkansas. “They won this award based off their application that lists the breadth and depth of activity that they conducted on their campus. They truly had a comprehensive list of accomplishments.”
That’s no kidding. Korchina and Gilson, who was the chapter’s national liaison officer for 2017-2018, worked with members of the chapter’s executive board to set goals early and communicate often. They ramped up member recruitment, resulting in 75 percent of the first-year D.O. class to join, up from 55 percent the previous year and the highest class membership by percent among all osteopathic colleges. Projects the chapter created or carried out included the following:
- a “mentor/mentee” program that connects members with members of the Iowa Osteopathic Medical Association.
- World AIDS Week, a partnership with the organization One Iowa that included training with specialized HIV providers followed by standardized clinical scenarios with HIV patients.
- establishment of a Pre-SOMA chapter at Simpson College in nearby Indianola, IA.
- Baldrick’s Day, an annual fundraiser for pediatric cancer research; the event raised $12,278, surpassing the previous year’s total.
- creation of an ongoing relationship with students at Brody Middle School to expose them to careers in medicine.
- A “mini” House of Delegates in which chapter members became knowledgeable about and debated resolutions from the spring and fall meetings of the national SOMA House.
Chapter members participated in a wide number of other campus activities. They also increased their focus on legislative and policy issues in collaboration with other campus organizations to sponsor a Political Advocacy Series, Seeking Justice Series and a Healthcare 101 Series on topics such as the structure of health insurance and Medicaid.
“A big push for me was to not only help students form opinions on issues, but also to help them become truly knowledgeable,” Gilson says.
In addition, Korchina became the first DMU student to join the legislative committee of the Iowa Medical Society. She and Gilson note that SOMA is the largest club on campus, and its scope is huge.
“It offers a lot of varied opportunities,” Korchina says. “You can really take it in any direction you want.”
In the coming year, the two SOMA leaders will serve on the national board, Korchina as secretary; Gilson, as membership and alumni affairs director. They’ll bring their respective strengths to those roles.
“Valeriya is really good at organizing and delegating,” Gilson says, “and I’m the motivation and vision guy.”