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Osteopathic medical students may be graduating early to fight COVID-19

Accrediting body approves steps for colleges of osteopathic medicine to allow fourth-year students to enter the health care workforce early.

By AOA Media Relations


CHICAGO—March 30, 2020—To allow states to expand their physician workforce during this critical time, the American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), which accredits the nation’s 38 osteopathic medical schools, will allow colleges of osteopathic medicine to offer early graduation to certain medical students in their fourth year to increase the health care workforce.

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has exacerbated the national physician shortage and is straining the human resources of hospitals across the country, especially in areas hard-hit by the pandemic such as New York and Washington.

“Many osteopathic medical students are eager to serve the nation during this difficult time, and a significant number have already met their institution’s criteria for graduation,” said Josh Prober, JD, AOA senior vice president of accreditation and general counsel.

Typically, fourth-year students at most colleges of osteopathic medicine graduate in May or June and start residency training in late June or early July.

During a special meeting, COCA’s executive committee approved an option for college of osteopathic medicine (COM) deans to allow fourth-year students who have satisfactorily completed their COM’s requirements for graduation and have been recommended for graduation by an approved body, such as the faculty association, to graduate early and join the health care workforce fighting COVID-19.

“COCA recognizes that individual COM leaders are in the best position to determine whether students are qualified for graduation and to make accommodations for their student body, so we have left this important decision to the individual COMs,” Prober said.

COCA is recognized by the United States Department of Education as the accreditor of colleges of osteopathic medicine.

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Jessica Bardoulas, Director of Media Relations | (312) 202-8038