Dean's Update 2022-02

February 21, 2022

MSUCOM receives continued accreditation through 2027-28 academic year

Since I began my tenure as Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, I made our COCA accreditation a top priority for the college, as I knew that this effort would also foster the achievement of several major goals set forth in our college’s strategic plan. Therefore, it is with great pride that I share the important news that the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine received continued accreditation from the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) through the 2027-28 academic year. It is no small task to meet the increasing rigors that the COCA recently implemented to ensure that all osteopathic medical schools meet the highest educational standards of the profession.

I thank all MSUCOM chairpersons, executive leaders, as well all faculty, staff and students for all of your hard work during these past four years, and for your commitment to ensuring the educational capacity of our college would be recognized, respected, and highlighted by the COCA.  Some comments from the COCA verify we are on the right path, and in many ways are exemplary amongst osteopathic medical schools.  For example, the COCA summary verified that “the Common Ground Framework Initiative, implemented by the college, develops the core set of beliefs, principles, practices, and norms related to professionalism for all students, faculty, staff, and administrators. This appears to be not only a framework and initiative but a lived experience at MSUCOM, clearly espoused by administration, faculty, staff, and students.”  The COCA also noted, “It is also good to see that MSUCOM has recognized the need to enhance initiatives in these areas and has included recruitment and retention as well as culture, diversity, and inclusion goals as part of the 2020-2023 Strategic Plan.”

Additional kudos from the COCA also included comments such as, “The faculty development program in place is convincingly assessment-driven and is consistent with the MSUCOM mission. The UME and GME faculty development process is impressive and covers a broad variety of relevant topics.”

Most impressively, the COCA went out of its way to provide glowing comments upon our research strategies and mission, noting that, “MSUCOM is beyond impressive in their scope and volume of research. It is evident that research and scholarly activity are well supported by the institution,” as well as that, “Students have ample opportunities to engage in various research endeavors.”

I also am happy that most students’ comments during COCA interviews were very positive, including praises for our IT personnel. I want our students to know that constructive criticism is always welcome,  so we can continue the process to ever improve the educational experience at COM.

Finally, I wish to strongly commend the efforts of Dr. Kirsten Waarala, Associate Dean for Medical Education, for leading our teams of SpartanDO faculty, staff and student leaders in implementing continual improvements to correct issues flagged during previous COCA reviews to provide the best experience for students.

As one of the premier colleges of osteopathic medicine in the country, we are pleased that we exceeded the commission’s standards for educational quality.

I’ve asked Dr. Waarala to explain more about the process and outcomes of the accreditation review, which she shared below.

Accreditation is our compass for providing a quality experience for our students—that means we have ongoing work each year to ensure we are achieving those aims. We are continuously striving to meet and exceed each standard. I’m thrilled that we improved from our previous review, and that we met all of the cWaaralaKirsten2009.jpgore elements. We’re working with the MSU Financial Aid department to make sure we provide an exceptional student experience in that arena, as well.

We were notified in December 2021 of our continued accreditation status, following a comprehensive self-study and a COCA site visit. This review was unique because the COCA conducted virtual site visits due to COVID precautions. From September 20-23 last year, we arranged video tours of each campus and Zoom visits between the COCA site review teams and faculty, staff and students from all three sites. In some ways, that made for easier navigation of the process and allowed a greater number and wider array of people to participate in those meetings. The COCA plans to come out to conduct an in-person site tour at some point in the future. The site review team highlighted strengths of the program, as Dean Amalfitano has mentioned.  Recognition was also made of our efforts in adapting the curriculum to COVID, making improvements to our facilities, developing a searchable curriculum map, expanding our commitment to DEI initiatives, and supporting our students with academic advising and mental health resources.  

To maintain our accreditation through the next site visit, we will prepare annual reports and undergo a mid-cycle review in 2025. That’s an important part of the process as it helps to ensure we remain on track and can address any issues as they are identified. Most recently, in 2020 we received a positive mid-cycle review from the COCA. The success of that review represented ongoing quality improvement  completed by many people across multiple departments.   

This positive outcome on our 2021 comprehensive accreditation review was really the culmination of the efforts of so many people. But I especially want to note the role of the Student Liaison Board of Accreditation (SLBA), which includes one student from each campus and class, for representing the student body during the site visits and facilitating student visits with the COCA site visit team. Their leadership role will now shift to obtaining annual student feedback to identify and correct any issues, giving us good data upon which we can act, and supporting our interim reports to COCA.

One of the most exciting things about receiving a seven-year accreditation is it gives us a platform upon which to build on existing strengths and bring forward strategic curricular innovation. Committees and work groups are already drafting recommendations that will be shared with our COM community over the next few months.   

Overall, our accreditation is an affirmation that we have great students, faculty and staff, and that we’ve made great strides as a college. It speaks to the quality of academic experience at the college and to the commitment everyone has put in to getting us there. Having that external validation and recognition is much appreciated, and sets us up to keep raising the bar. 

Andy Amalfitano

Kirsten Waarala
Associate Dean for Medical Education