Research at TouroCOM: COMLEX exam preparation for DO students
Michael Erickson is an ardent advocate of the osteopathic profession. In 2013-2014 he was named National Student D.O. of the Year, and during his year as president of TouroCOM's Student Government, he also served as National Medical Education Representative of COSGP (College of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents), where he advocated for the need to have “a better, more streamlined process for teaching osteopathic manipulation in medical school.”
During his third year at TouroCOM, he was surprised by how many of his peers not only took the COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination), but also the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination), which is used by residency directors to academically compare D.O.s to their M.D. counterparts.
Dr. Erickson decided to research current preparation practices and tactics used by medical students for COMLEX, hypothesizing that there were more preparation resources available for the USMLE than the COMLEX, a factor which might affect their performance on the latter. After gathering the data, he confirmed his hypothesis, and started to raise awareness among osteopathic peers around the country about his findings.
Collaborating with Dr. Tyler Cymet, D.O., the vice president of student affairs for AACOM (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine), and another D.O. student from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, the trio published "Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination-USA Level 1 and Level 2-Cognitive Evaluation Preparation and Outcomes" in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (2015).
Besides his interest in predictive indicators of COMLEX, another research interest of Dr. Erickson is in trauma and critical care. He had extensive background in forensics and trauma: He worked with tissue recovery for the Harvard brain bank; and, prior to moving east, had been working in his home state of Arizona at the medical examiner’s office, assisting with autopsies/death investigation, and at the Donor Network, an organ and tissue recovery organization, doing corneal recoveries. “We had used hyaluronic acid in corneas at the Donor Network,” remembers Erickson. “And after I moved to New York to attend TouroCOM, I met Dr. Stern. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I had referenced one of his papers in a proposal in Arizona—he was the expert in this domain!”
With Dr. Stern, Erickson coauthored “Chain Gangs: New Aspects of Hyaluronan Metabolism” in Biochemistry Research International (2012), highlighting treatment modalities that would help decrease cerebral edema.
Dr. Erickson will pursue general surgery at the St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway and hopes to specialize in trauma, critical care, and burn.
First physician moment:
“It wasn’t a “physician” moment per se but an epiphany I had at eighteen, while assisting in a death investigation with the medical examiner. While holding a baby that had died after being stuffed into a duffel bag, something in my mind changed. Everyone knows that people live and people die, but at that moment I visualized the feeling of loneliness and fear that someone might experience before their death— that feeling got to me. And I realized that that feeling should never be present—even in death—and that is why it’s so important to treat the deceased with so much respect, and care, and kindness.
“And then, when I started medical school, I moved on to work with the living—I wanted to be an advocate in quality of life. Because as a doctor, you don’t save lives every day: Not every patient visit will be a life-threatening experience. But as a doctor you can make a positive impact on someone’s life with every interaction. Every visit, every meeting with another human being is a chance to lift their spirits and treat them with respect and understanding. And that’s the main reason, I realized, why I really want to be a doctor.”