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CHICAGO—September 26, 2018–The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) commends the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Allied Health Professionals for its investigation into the actions of a physical therapy assistant representing himself as an osteopathic physician, which resulted in a consent decree between the Massachusetts Board and James Bucciarrelli.
AOA investigators found Bucciarrelli, a licensed physical therapist assistant and athletic trainer, misrepresented himself as “DO,” “DO-MP,” and “LATC” on multiple websites on which he advertised his services. Bucciarrelli also did not properly identify his qualifications or otherwise correct an investigator, posing as a prospective patient, who addressed him as “Dr. Bucciarrelli.”
In the United States, osteopathic physicians (DOs) are fully licensed physicians who prescribe medication and may perform surgery, with the same practice rights as MDs. The credential “DO” is recognized in the U.S. only when applied to graduates of osteopathic medical schools accredited by the AOA Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA).
The term doctor of osteopathic medicine-manual practitioner (DOMP) is neither awarded by any accredited American school nor does it result in any form of licensure in the United States, according to Josh Prober, JD, AOA general counsel.
“In the interests of protecting the public, the AOA encourages licensing and regulatory agencies to investigate health care providers who promote their services using the term ’DO‘ or ’DOMP‘ when they have not graduated from an accredited osteopathic medical school. The international use of the term DO is not uniform, which has the potential to be misleading and result in the unauthorized practice of medicine,” Prober explained.
The confusion is compounded by the rapid growth of the osteopathic medical profession, he added. Currently, one out of four U.S. medical students is enrolled in an accredited college of osteopathic medicine, which awards the DO degree, and osteopathic physicians comprise more than 11 percent of U.S. physicians. Like MDs, osteopathic medical school graduates select a medical specialty and complete 3-6 years of residency training to become fully licensed physicians.
Currently, the AOA is investigating complaints regarding some online schools’ efforts to attract American students to programs in “manual osteopathic practice,” which is not a recognized profession in the United States. These online schools, including the National University of Medical Sciences, allow students with a high school diploma or an equivalent to view recorded online lectures. The coursework does not lead to licensure because none currently exists, although the schools’ marketing materials suggest that graduates will be able to open private practices.
The AOA strongly advises potential patients to make sure they understand the training and education of any health care provider who offers treatment for disease or injury. Potential students seeking training to be an osteopathic manual practitioner should know that osteopathic services require a physician’s license and that improperly offering such services may be prosecuted by governmental authorities.
About the American Osteopathic Association
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 137,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools.
To learn more about DOs and the osteopathic philosophy of medicine, visit www.DoctorsThatDO.org.