When BCOM third year medical student John Rajala envisions his future as a practicing physician, he understands that clinical work is only part of the job. “I’ve always believed that there is more to being a physician than the patient encounter,” he said. “Advocacy and professional involvement are a large, and sometimes unseen, component of what medicine involves. Serving in the national Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) is a natural way to develop those skills while training to become a physician. In short, SOMA is how you learn to be an osteopathic physician outside of the classroom and clinic.”

Rajala is one of the founding members of BCOM’s chapter of SOMA and he has been involved on a national level since his first year of medical school. He has served as the SOMA Region IV trustee and as treasurer for the National Board of Trustees. He is also a member of Omega Beta Iota, the political honors fraternity for the osteopathic profession, and he regularly represents BCOM and SOMA at annual events including DO Day on the Hill, the National Osteopathic Student Caucus, and the Osteopathic Medical Conference and Exposition.

Rajala’s latest accomplishment is serving as chair of SOMA’s National Board of Directors. He interviewed for the position in December and was selected and appointed by the Board of Trustees to serve throughout 2019. The National Board of Directors is the programming arm of SOMA. Twelve people serve on the Board including a professional development director, a political affairs director, and a community outreach director.

“As the chair, I will serve as the liaison between the Board of Trustees and the National Board of Directors,” Rajala explained. “My role is to support these directors in their initiatives and ensure that we are fulfilling our responsibilities to our members through these positions. I will also serve on various committees and assist in planning our three conventions, and partnerships with other organizations.”

He will also serve on the Board of Trustees and as an ex-officio member of the SOMA House of Delegates. He said, “My specific goals this year are to increase our accountability to our membership. I hope to ensure that we are acting on the desires of our House of Delegates, which represents 15,000+ osteopathic medical students across the country. Additionally, I hope to encourage more collaboration between the various director positions. For instance, the osteopathic principles and practice director can work synergistically with the public relations director to increase awareness of what osteopathic medicine is, and how our approach represents the best response to the needs of our patients.”

As part of his new role, Rajala recently helped conduct interviews for other students to serve on the National Board of Directors. He said he looks for students who have implemented projects on a local level and who have a good understanding of how SOMA collaborates with other osteopathic organizations such as the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM).

“We look for applicants that have innovative plans for the year,” he explained. “We like to see new ideas that ensure our organization constantly changes and explores news ways to act on the asks of our membership. I like to see directors that have demonstrated that they can take action and complete projects. Deliverables are important, and that’s a priority.”