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Who We Are

A training and education platform designed to deliver the context, continuity and community-oriented primary care model to our healthcare professionals.


Purpose Statement

The ATSU Virtual Community Health Center is an engaging virtual learning environment designed to prepare healthcare teams to serve and to help transform medically underserved communities.

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The Need for the Project

The Primary Care Shortfall

It is no secret that we are in dire need of more primary care physicians and primary care health professionals caring for our underserved populations. Specific and thoughtful recruitment and training is needed to influence our next generation of healers. To see the magnitude of the challenge click here.

Support and Promote Rural Healthcare

Our rural populations are often underserved when unable to access high quality whole-person healthcare. Our country needs caring providers trained to serve in rural and outlying areas.

Redistributing Roles

Within this project we work to influence the redistribution of roles and responsibilities of care within our communities. Interprofessional education and practice means that physicians, dentists, physician assistants, physical therapists, audiologists, pharmacists, occupational therapists, social workers counselors and other professionals will make a bigger impact when they work together to learn, then practice and finally lead the change we wish to see. Interprofessional education and practice are not layered on top of existing practice-the knowledge skills and attitudes necessary must be taught by example from the beginning.


A training and education platform designed to deliver the context, continuity and community-oriented primary care model to our healthcare professionals.


Interprofessional Education

The VCHC also encompasses an interprofessional education component. Students must collaborate with other healthcare professionals to optimize patient care.

Evaluation Mechanisms and Osteopathy

Our goal is to outfit each VCHC case fully with osteopathic considerations, which requires an OMM DO consultant to work closely with the VCHC team and SOMA clinical education clerkship directors. Full integration of OMM more closely into cases and lessons, especially in OMS II-IV, is a major milestone.

Knowledge to Address the Issues

Ultimately, the VCHC is aimed at equipping healthcare professionals—students, residents, health center employees and volunteers—with the knowledge to address the looming major issues facing underserved communities. Eventually, students from other health professions will be invited to collaborate on solving VCHC cases.

Responding to the Affordable Care Act

The VCHC project responds to the Affordable Care Act and will reflect community-oriented primary care (COPC) inclusive of social determinants and osteopathic principles. Over the course of 2014-2015, the VCHC team hopes to scale the project to include participants from other ATSU health professions schools, assemble collaboration on a wider, national initiative and plan a strategy for residency training.

Social Determinants and Community Health Considerations

Modern day scenarios will require trainees to explore best practices for delivering quality, accountable care, with an emphasis on considering social determinants of health and community health needs. After each case, students will be required to reflect on what they learned from the case that can be applied to optimizing the health of the community.

The Need for the Project

VCHC case studies are innovative and unique, and will fill an existing gap in the osteopathic medical educational products marketplace.

The VCHC is unique in many ways. Students will encounter a special portfolio of technology-enhanced learning tools, such as virtual patient simulations, educational case games, electronic EHR, and other technology-enhanced activities, such as exercises using the UDS maps. Furthermore, each module will include five important aspects of care that are currently not addressed by other virtual patient case scenarios:  1) osteopathic principles, 2) the clinical presentation approach, 3) the CHC setting, 4) family connections within thepatient stories, and 5) social determinants and community health considerations.

Osteopathic Principles

Unlike any other commercially available cases, the VCHC case studies integrate osteopathic diagnosis and treatment with a whole-person care perspective. These virtualosteopathic cases are uniquely designed for training at the pre doc medicalstudent level. For this reason, over the past three years, SOMA invested in a VPS platform called “Decision Simulation”, and developed a library of new cases.  Students are encouraged to take an extensive history and explore osteopathic palpatory diagnosis and treatments.

Clinical Presentation Approach

SOMA’s educational approach to teaching diagnosis and treatment begins with the patient’s clinical presentation and extended history. The VCHC emphasizes inductive reasoning with the support of decision flow charts (schemes). Currently, there are no scheme-inductive virtual patient simulation (VPS) cases available on the open market.

CHC Setting

The VCHC project presents the trainee with a virtual environment in which to learn about the context and processes of the community health center prior to encountering patients with complex health issues.

Family Context

Students work through a set of health and wellness-related cases designed around a series of families and family members who are clients of the health center (view the Patients & Families).

For example, Ms. Yazzie, our 60-year-old American Indian female, first presents with hand pain. Students collaborate in small groups on a preliminary diagnosis and initial treatment plan that includes osteopathic considerations. On a follow up visit, she returns with a complaint of weight gain. Student teams will work with her to maximize both recovery and wellness. The collaborative electronic health record will reflect the changes that must be endorsed and implemented in order for this patient to live a healthy life, including issues involving the patient’s family context.

In this graphic, you can see the family connections among patients from five racial and ethnic groups: Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, African American, and Caucasian. The cases also address socioeconomic and lifestyle issues commonly encountered in the patient-provider interaction, such as the importance of social determinants of health, treating undocumented immigrants, healthcare in the LGBT community, etc.