About the Research Program

Research and scholarly activity are central to medical education and are incorporated across the continuum of the curriculum. Engaging in research develops the analytic and critical thinking skills essential to integrate scientific discovery and clinical insight to inform patient care. Research empowers physicians to be leaders by generating, reviewing and interpreting up-to-date scientific literature. Thus, research at Noorda-COM begins in the first week of the first year and culminates in completion of a capstone course at the end of the fourth year.

Curriculum Requirements

Curriculum on Evidence-Based Medicine & Practice 

In the first year, the Osteopathic Principles course contains research-specific content regarding health system sciences, evidence-based medicine, and ethical and clinical practices.

A longitudinal, four-year Core Entrustable Professional Activities course (CEPA) expands on foundational research skills related to patient care. Students participate in research projects as part of faculty led teams across the continuum of their four years.

During their fourth year, students complete their research projects as one component of a Capstone course. Students will publish their work in a scholarly journal, present on Research Day, or present at a national conference.

Research Project Development 

Students are introduced to the various faculty led research “Houses”, each with a different research focus, at the end of the first semester. Students then apply to be selected to a House at the beginning of the second semester. Under the direction of the Associate Dean of Research, Houses develop a mission, vision, and a research strategic plan for a variety of research interests within their focus.

Research Project Execution 

Students define a research plan with their faculty mentor that includes scholarly activity, such as a poster presentation on Research Day or at a national conference, and/or a publication in a journal. Student engagement with the research component during clinical rotations depends on their research project. The Office of Research will facilitate students research during the academic year with limited internal grants and support in the application process of external grants. Students will be mentored in proposal-writing and submission process. Students will be expected to contribute as a co-author of a manuscript for publication that results from their work.

Years 3 and 4 

Clinical Sites 

Students will be required to fulfill research and scholarship requirement associated with their research cohort and any research specified by individual clinical training sites. Policies regarding required research and scholarship activity will be found in the training manual provided by the clinical training sites. All students are required to complete one scholar/research activity annually and participate in the annual research forum. They are encouraged to submit presentations to state and regional research forums, as well as national conferences.

Research Electives 

During the fourth year, students can apply for a research electives that will count towards academic credit. Applications must be submitted to the Assistant Dean of Clinical Affairs, after approval from the Associate Dean of Research. Upon completion, students must write a review article covering the scope of the research project. Project description and how the educational and evaluative criteria will be met. This should be in the form of publishable journal article with an abstract of primary research and ultimately result in a poster or oral presentation at Noorda-COM’s research forums/conferences.

Pre-Doctoral Fellow of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM)

Administered by the Department of Osteopathic Principles and Practices, this course is designed to expand educational opportunities with guided learning experiences in the areas of medical education, research, and osteopathic principles and practices while assisting in all phases of the department’s operations. Fellows will assist in lecturing, teaching, assessing, and counseling first and second year students. Fellows will also provide clinical services under the supervision of faculty members and are encouraged to develop or participate in research projects with the assistance of the basic science or clinical faculties. The major goal of this fellowship is to provide knowledge and skills needed for the fellow to contribute to teaching, clinical practice, and research in the area of OMM throughout their career. An Osteopathic Pre-Doctoral Research Fellowship will also be offered to students who have committed to devoting an extra year to full-time research.

Research and Scholarship Forums

To enhance the research culture, we will host an annual Research Day along with Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. All students can submit an abstract and present posters at the event. Research Day will also include a keynote speaker and oral presentations by selected students and faculty members. Additional presentations can be arranged within the same week/month as our Research Day. Students will have the opportunity to present at research day-type activities within clinical rotation sites.

Student Research and Scholarly Activities

Student Publications 

Students are expected to present their work externally. Some students will participate in writing up research projects and co-authoring journal articles. Funds will be provided for students to attend local, regional, national, or international meetings as outlined in the Application for Noorda-COM Student Research Presentation Travel Funding. Funds support student participation in scientific discovery and dissemination of new knowledge in biomedical sciences, clinical, osteopathic, public health, and medical education research.

See our full Research Strategic Plan here.

See our full Student Research and Scholarly Activity Policy here.

Current Projects

Current Projects

  • Osteopathic Manual Medicine in the treatment of opioid withdrawal and hyperalgesia.
  • Cervical Mechanical Stimulation in the treatment of Alcohol-Use Disorder
  • Exercise-induced protection to chronic alcohol use mediated through opioid receptors
  • Using Primary Literature to teach principles of neuroscience
  • Using Artificial Intelligence to predict early training outcomes in medical students
  • Heterodyned whole-body vibration in the treatment of anxiety disorders and opioid withdrawal
  • Vibration-induced beat frequencies to change sleep architecture
  • Substance P mediated neurogenic spots underly acupuncture effects
  • Virtual Reality systems for studying the neurophysiology of head-restrained rodents in freely-moving tasks
  • Flow mediated dilation protocol using Doppler ultrasound and MOXY

Meet the Research Team

Kyle Bills, DC, PhD

ASSOCIATE DEAN FOR RESEARCH

Dr. Bills’ laboratory seeks to understand the neuroscience of peripheral neurological stimulation particularly as it relates to addiction.  We study the non-canonical central hodology of spinal mechanoreceptors and their effects on the mesolimbic circuitry.  We also place particular emphasis on translational applications for non-pharmacological interventions for addiction.

Jay Danto, DO

Chair of Osteopathic Principles and Practices

Dr. Danto’s laboratory studies that examines an alternate method for the osteopathic diagnosis of the pelvis. The standard method has been used for over 50 years, but the evidence supports that students struggle with consistency in attaining the correct diagnosis. Consequently, having an additional method for students to utilize to confirm their diagnosis will lead to improved student confidence in their diagnostic skills and better outcomes in treatment.

David Sant, PhD

Staff Scientist

Dr. Sant’s laboratory is focused on analysis of large datasets with a particular interest in genomic and epigenomic datasets. Much of his work has revolved around chromatin modification and DNA hydroxymethylation patterns and how they change in response to changes in cellular environment. Other projects have involved updating the Sequence Ontology and designing web-scraping programs to obtain and normalize genetic variant information from multiple clinical genetic variant databases. 

Jordan T. Yorgason, PhD

Research Team

Dr. Yorgason’s laboratory is interested in understanding the neuroscience of motivation for appetitive behavior and conditioned learning. A major focus in the lab is the development of new tools for studying neuroscience using a variety of engineering modalities. Some current projects include the development of virtual reality systems for studying neural physiology in head restrained rodents performing behavioral tasks.

Scott C. Steffensen, PhD

Research Team

Dr. Steffensen’s laboratory primarily utilizes electrophysiology (both in vitro and in vivo) to measure and analyze the effects of substances on dopamine (DA) release in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) of the anterior forebrain. Understanding the effects of DA is vital to understanding addiction and also the eventual clinical development of treatment.

Robert W. Pettitt, PhD, FACSM, ATC, CSCS

Research Team

Dr. Pettitt’s laboratory was strategically designed to conduct data collection off-site and in the field.  We have a wide range of telemetric sensors that enable whole-body motion capture and systemic measurements (e.g., metabolic analyzers, EMG, NIRS).  Our latest research centers on applications related critical power, cardiac rehabilitation, deleterious effects of vaping, and ergonomic situations involving police and firefighters.