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2022 AOA Advocacy Award winners announced

By AOA Staff


During DO Day 2022, the AOA presented the following advocacy awards recognizing excellence in public policy and professional advocacy on behalf of the osteopathic profession. The awards were presented by AOA President Joseph A. Giaimo, DO, during a General Session in Washington, DC, on April 26, 2022.

Individual Excellence in Advocacy

Recipients of the Individual Excellence in Advocacy award have demonstrated a personal commitment to public policy on behalf of the osteopathic profession by participating in advocacy events like DO Day, demonstrating leadership in advocacy and facilitating the advocacy of their peers. There are four honorees in this category: a student, a resident, a physician and an affiliate executive.

Courtney Merlo, OMS III, has advocated on behalf of her student colleagues at numerous SOMA and AOA advocacy events during her time as an osteopathic medical student. In addition to participating in all DO Day and AOA House of Delegates meetings since joining SOMA, Merlo has served on the Commission of Osteopathic College Accreditation and as the SOMA representative to the American Medical Association. She is currently a medical student at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Janae Fry, DO, has served as a member of the Osteopathic Political Action Committee and has made a significant contribution to public policy advocacy through direct engagement and efforts to increase involvement among her peers. Dr. Fry is Emergency Medicine Chief Resident at Orange Park Medical Center in Orange Park, Florida and graduated from Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Katherine Gantz Pannel, DO, is one of the profession’s fiercest advocates for mental health care and the osteopathic profession. As an osteopathic psychiatrist in Oxford, Mississippi, she works tirelessly to end the stigma surrounding mental health and advocate for her patients. She can often be found advocating for her patients and profession at the Mississippi state capitol and, just last month, provided testimony on substance abuse before the House Select Committee on the Economy.

Kristopher Nicholoff serves as the CEO and Executive Director of the Michigan Osteopathic Association. In this role, he oversees all functions of the MOA, including the organization’s robust focus on osteopathic advocacy, both at the state and federal levels. In recent years, MOA has focused advocacy efforts on issues including scope of practice, safe opioid use, vaccines and immunizations, human trafficking and physician wellness. In addition to his work at the MOA, Nicholoff serves the profession as a member of the AOA Bureau on Federal Health Programs.

Organizational Excellence in Advocacy

This series of awards recognizes osteopathic organizations for activities and accomplishments that advance public policy on behalf of the osteopathic profession.

Omega Beta Iota, a National Osteopathic Political Honor Society, founded in 2007, recently partnered with the AOA to deploy a grassroots campaign urging lawmakers to support student debt relief and patient access to care by co-sponsoring the Rural America Health Corps Act. The effort helped generate new co-sponsors for the bill, which ultimately helped elevate its visibility in Congress.

The Society of Specialty Executive Directors has played a critically important role in advocating for the osteopathic profession. The society’s continuous engagement and steadfast support of advocacy on behalf of DOs and osteopathic medical students have benefitted not only osteopathic specialty organizations, but the profession as a whole.

The Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association has made a major impact on state and national advocacy efforts to advance the osteopathic medical profession. With a strong history of service on influential committees, task forces and boards, AOMA members serve as powerful advocates for osteopathic physicians, medical students and patients in Arizona and beyond.

The Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons of California advanced a multi-year effort to provide regulatory relief to osteopathic physicians practicing in the state of California. This past year, the organization achieved success with the passage of a 50% reduction in continuing medical education requirements for DO licensure, bringing requirements in line with national averages.

The Ohio Osteopathic Association developed an innovative health policy rotation that trains osteopathic medical students to become health policy advocates. As part of the program, participants shadow the OOA Executive Director and Health Policy Chair, attend coalition strategy meetings and legislative briefings and draft policy statements.

Excellence in Media Award

This award recognizes a physician who has advanced public policy and professional advocacy on behalf of the osteopathic profession through media advocacy.

Jennifer N. Caudle, DO, is a board-certified osteopathic family medicine physician, an on-air health expert and an associate professor in the department of Family Medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. A long-time champion for osteopathic medicine in the media, Dr. Caudle has appeared on national news outlets including The TODAY Show, the Dr. Oz Show, CNN, The Rachael Ray Show, PBS and many others. Articles featuring her expertise as an osteopathic physician have been published in The Daily Beast, USA Today, Prevention, Good Housekeeping Readers Digest and Men’s Health. Dr. Jen, as she’s known to hundreds of thousands of social media followers, has served as a spokesperson for the AOA and regularly lecturers on topics like opioid prescribing, bullying, wellness and motivation.

Excellence in Journalism

This award recognizes a professional journalist who has worked to increase public awareness about the osteopathic profession.

Rose Raymond serves as assistant director of content and editor of The DO, the AOA’s award-winning news website serving all members of the osteopathic community. Since joining The DO’s staff 10 years ago, Rose has played an integral role in shaping the editorial direction of the publication. This past year, she provided critical leadership as The DO underwent a complete transformation and debuted a new content format and editorial approach. For the first time in its 60-plus year history, the publication is now managed and written for DOs by DOs, operating under the leadership of a DO editor in chief and 25-member physician and medical student advisory board. Each monthly issue contains a diverse lineup of articles and columns written by members of the profession, with regular features focused on advocacy, public policy and advancing the profession.

Congressional Champions of Osteopathic Medicine

This award recognizes members of Congress for their support of policy issues that impact the osteopathic profession. Award criteria include the number of priority bills introduced or cosponsored, leadership on issues of significance to DOs and osteopathic medical student and voting record on legislative priorities.

Congresswoman Kim Schrier, MD, represents Washington’s 8th Congressional District, located just north of the Pacific Northwest College of Osteopathic Medicine. Congresswoman Schrier is the first pediatrician and also the first female physician elected to Congress. She puts her background as a physician to good use, serving on the important House Energy and Commerce Committee and as a leader on a number of important healthcare issues. During the COVID pandemic, Congresswoman Schrier sought to secure funds for local public health agencies and to expedite the availability of vaccines. She sponsored the “Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act of 2021,” which would require the CDC to award grants to health departments to increase rates of recommended immunizations during the public health emergency.

Congressman Brad Wenstrup was elected to Congress in 2012 following a career in podiatry and service as a combat surgeon in Iraq. The latter provided invaluable experience years later when Congressman Wenstrup cared for a colleague following the shooting at a Congressional baseball practice in 2017. In the House of Representatives, Congressman Wenstrup serves on the influential Ways and Means Committee, where he has championed the best interests of patients and physicians on a number of critical issues, one of which is surprise medical billing. Congressman Wenstrup was steadfast in his support and advocacy for a legislative solution that protected patients and provided a fair process for resolving billing disputes. His efforts resulted in the No Surprises Act, which was passed by Congress at the end of 2020. As a leader of the Doctors Caucus, Congressman Wenstrup has been an important voice on many issues of direct importance to patients and physicians.

Congratulations to all of the 2022 winners!