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Professional Advocacy

Standing strong

Protecting and defending the rights of DOs

The AOA steps in when DOs and osteopathic students face professional barriers to training, licensure and credentialing.

Though osteopathic medicine is one of the fastest-growing health care professions in the country, DO physicians and students still occasionally encounter professional barriers related to access to training, licensure and credentialing. When these situations arise, the AOA steps in with the goal of ensuring all DOs enjoy the rights and respect they have earned as osteopathic physicians.

Need assistance?

If you are a DO or osteopathic student member of the AOA in need of professional advocacy or support, please send us an email at do-discrimination@osteopathic.org.

The following list includes recent examples of legal advocacy work the AOA has championed on behalf of its members. This page will be continuously updated with new information as it becomes available. Learn more about our advocacy initiatives on The DO and stay up to date on social media with #AOAinAction.

Defending physician-led, team-based care

On May 28, 2021, the AOA released a statement and launched an aggressive social media campaign calling for transparency in use of professional designations by non-physician clinicians. While recognizing the important contributions of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, Physician Assistants and others, the AOA statement urges the healthcare community and decision-makers to support policies that recognize the importance of the physician-led medical team model, recognizing that physicians are the only professionals with the comprehensive medical education and training to lead patient care. Read the full statement.

Inequitable policy for ABIM program directors

In December 2020, the AOA and seven individual physicians filed a lawsuit against the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) challenging a policy stating that residency and fellowship program directors must be ABIM-certified in order to qualify residents for the ABIM exam. The policy disadvantages DOs certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine (AOBIM), who are fully qualified to serve as ACGME residency program directors.

The AOA and individual physicians have asked the court to enter an injunction barring the ABIM from implementing the policy. “The only purpose served by the ABIM requirement is to create a competitive advantage for the ABIM. This is harmful to program directors, residents and our graduate medical education system at-large,” said AOA CEO Kevin M. Klauer, DO, EJD.

Discrimination against DO students & trainees

The AOA continually advocates on behalf of osteopathic medical students and residents who encounter discrimination from audition rotation sites and residency programs that exclude DO applicants. Students who encounter these obstacles should inform their school’s administration and report the behavior to the AOA at do-discrimination@osteopathic.org.

The following list summarizes recent AOA advocacy efforts on behalf of osteopathic students and trainees:

  • Washington University
    Upon learning that DO students were being excluded from clinical rotations at Washington University, the AOA legal team partnered with Jennie Kwon, DO, MS, a former AOA board member and current assistant professor of medicine at Washington University. Conversations between Dr. Kwon and university officials revealed that the omission of DO students was an error, and online applications for audition rotation slots were updated to include both DO and MD applicants.
  • University of Virginia
    The AOA was contacted by a DO student reporting that the description of a University of Virginia (UVA) internal medicine residency program on the AMA’s FEIDA website indicated the program was only accepting applications from MD students. Research conducted by the AOA legal team concluded the discriminatory practices did not seem to reflect a school-wide policy. The AOA contacted the UVA internal medicine program director, who responded within 72 hours that the language had been updated to include DOs.
  • San Francisco Plastic Surgery Match
    In December 2020, the AOA learned that the San Francisco Plastic Surgery Residency Matching Program required applicants to prove eligibility to obtain board certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). This policy discriminated against DOs who trained in AOA residencies and were not eligible for ABPS board certification. The AOA collaborated with the plastic surgery Match, the ABPS, the ACGME and the American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons to update the requirement to reflect eligibility for both ABPS- and AOA-eligible physicians.
  • Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS)
    In March 2021, AOA CEO Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, contacted HSS regarding language on the institution’s website that excluded DO students from clinical rotations. HSS officials took quick action to correct the administrative oversight and posted the following clarification: “HSS celebrates the transition to a single GME accreditation system, allowing us to welcome candidates from osteopathic (DO) and allopathic (MD) programs, and others who meet ACGME eligibility requirements.”
  • Audition rotation costs
    The AOA’s legal team is currently working to discontinue policies that allow institutions to charge osteopathic medical students higher fees than those charged to MD students for completing audition rotations.
  • Differentiated tuition policies for DO, MD students
    The AOA engages in ongoing advocacy to address inequitable tuition policies that impact osteopathic medical students. The AOA’s legal team is currently working directly with an official at the University of Utah, as well as John Dougherty, DO, Dean of the Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine in Provo, Utah, to address a University of Utah policy that charges significantly higher tuition and fees to DO students in the university’s visiting students program.

Barriers to board certification

In late 2020, the AOA was contacted by a DO who was seeking, and had been denied, eligibility for subspecialty certification in neurocritical care through the Committee on Advanced Subspecialty Training (CAST) program. The DO, who is certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, had completed an osteopathic neurology residency program and a fellowship in stroke and neurocritical care at Duke. As a result of AOA advocacy on the physician’s behalf, CAST subsequently awarded the certification.

Recognition of board certification

In April 2021, the AOA was contacted by an osteopathic affiliate organization regarding a physician who faced obstacles promoting his facial plastic surgery specialization on Real Self, an online healthcare marketplace focused on plastic surgery, dermatology and minimally-invasive treatments. A Real Self policy required physicians listed as specializing in facial plastic surgery to have trained in fellowships accredited by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS). Eligibility for such fellowships is limited to physicians who complete ACGME training in ENT or plastic surgery and obtain certification through the American Board of Otolaryngology or the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Osteopathic training and certification were not recognized. Following advocacy by the AOA, Real Self amended the policy to align the credentialing process for DOs and MDs and recognize osteopathic training and certification for AOA board-certified facial plastic surgeons.




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