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Aug. 17, 2020

College of Osteopathic Medicine becomes satellite testing center for med students

COVID-19 has changed life for just about everyone — including osteopathic medical students, whose four years of study are tightly scheduled. 

Part of that schedule includes taking the COMLEX-USA Level 1, 2 and 3 exams. So, when Prometric Testing Centers, where the exams are usually held, were forced to cancel some scheduled test dates due to safety concerns, students were worried. 

“As medical students, we were aware of the severity of the pandemic. However, when testing centers began sending out cancellations, our once fast-paced lives seemed to halt,” said Deanna Ingrassia Miano, president of the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine Class of 2021. “Do we keep studying? Will we be eligible to graduate? Will we still be able to apply for residency?” The uncertainty was unsettling. 

Some students were able to reschedule their exams at their original testing centers for later dates, while others traveled to other states to complete their exams. But MSU was also working to provide another option. 

“Early on, we had conversations with the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, or NBOME, which sponsors these exams, about whether we could be part of a solution that would involve allowing students to test on campus,” said Kirsten Waarala, associate dean for medical education at the College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

The college’s Division of Medical Education and MSU IT staff collaborated with NBOME and Prometric to design a model for a temporary regional testing center. After going through a process of questionnaires and assessing technical capabilities, the osteopathic medical college was selected as one of two temporary regional testing centers that will administer the computer-based COMLEX exams. The other temporary regional testing center is located at University of North Texas Health Science Center Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

MSU’s testing center has space for 14 students to take exams each day, beginning August 14. In addition to administering tests for students, Waarala said the school hopes to provide testing seats for other osteopathic medical students from throughout the Midwest region. 

Security standards will be equivalent to those in a brick-and-mortar Prometric Testing Center, and two college faculty members who serve as national liaisons to the NBOME are also providing oversight to ensure all policies and procedures are followed.

Given the pandemic, additional safety measures are in place. 

“Together with Prometric, MSU is working hard to be mindful of the necessary precautions, creating a safe space and ensuring that anybody who is working in the testing center or coming to take an exam wears a mask, is free of symptoms and has practiced social distancing,” Waarala said.  

For their part, students at the college are relieved to have this new testing option and are doing their best to use current circumstances as a learning experience. 

“Being a medical student during a pandemic has added another dimension to our understanding of medicine and healthcare,” Miano said. “Though there’s still much for us to learn in our residency training, we look forward to the day when we can be at the frontlines along with our teachers and mentors. I’m thankful our college has provided a testing platform which will allow us to reach this point without hindrance.” 

By: Julia Malacoff

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