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Statement attributable to AOA President Thomas Ely, DO, and AOA CEO Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD:
As the President of the United States battled COVID-19 under the care of Sean P. Conley, DO, and a team of supporting physicians, the nation’s 151,000 osteopathic physicians and medical students confronted a wave of confusion and broad mischaracterizations of osteopathic medicine. Comments made online and in the news made clear that many in the media, and many celebrities, do not understand the scope or professional status of osteopathic medicine. Many have incorrectly implied, and in some cases outright claimed, that doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) are less qualified than allopathic physicians (MDs).
DOs, like their MD counterparts, complete four years of education at an accredited medical school, which includes two years of clinical sciences followed by two years of clinical rotations. DOs and MDs complete comprehensive national licensing exams. They then train side-by-side with MDs in residency and fellowship programs for three to seven years, depending on specialty. DOs can choose, train, and practice in all the same specialties as MDs. As practicing physicians, they are held to the same standards by state licensing boards and are specialty and sub-specialty board-certified.
DOs are distinctive. Osteopathic medical students, who currently account for one in four of all medical students in the U.S., also receive an additional 200 hours of instruction on osteopathic principles and practice, which includes empathetic, patient-centered care and osteopathic manipulative medicine, which leverages the body’s ability to heal.
DOs are fully-licensed physicians practicing in every specialty and geographic region of the nation. They hold some of the most prominent roles in medicine today and have proudly represented our profession in many industries including, but not limited to, healthcare, federal and state government, and the military.
Approximately 11% of our nation’s physicians are DOs. Our profession has grown 63% in the past decade and nearly 300% in the last 30 years. Osteopathic physicians hold high-ranking positions in our nation’s top academic and medical institutions and are responsible for the health and well-being of millions, including our nation’s astronauts, those who serve in the uniformed services, the President of the United States, and even former Vice President Biden.
As the largest organization representing the osteopathic profession, the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight. Our nation and world are grappling with an unprecedented public health crisis. Now, more than ever, we need trusted sources who understand health care and the providers who care for our nation.
DOs have proudly served on the frontlines of medicine in the U.S. for more than a century. Facts matter, and responsible journalism must include an accurate portrayal of our profession, devoid of political influence or narrative.
If you are unfamiliar with the osteopathic profession, we encourage you to review the many resources from the AOA or identify an osteopathic physician in your region. DOs deserve to be correctly portrayed and understood, while being honored for their significant contributions caring for this nation’s sick and injured.