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.
The following list includes recent examples of professional 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 and #DOProud.
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 email@example.com.
The following list summarizes recent AOA advocacy efforts on behalf of osteopathic students and trainees:
- University of Maryland
In January 2022, the University of Maryland School of Medicine amended its policy to extend eligibility for rotations to osteopathic medical students, effective during the next residency application cycle. The update followed more than 10 months of advocacy by AOA leadership on behalf of DO students.
- 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.
Combatting misinformation in the media
- In fall 2021, comedian Hasan Minhaj broadly mischaracterized DOs by referring to them as “off-brand doctors” during an interview on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The AOA’s swift public response mobilized the medical community, generating tens of thousands of impressions across social media and leading to a public apology from the comedian.
- In November 2021, the New York Times published an article citing efforts by the American Medical Association to limit authorization of COVID-19 vaccine exemptions by “alternative practitioners.” The NYT article erroneously listed “osteopaths” as “alternative practitioners,” alongside homeopaths, chiropractors and naturopaths. The AOA quickly took action to educate the reporter and demand a correction. Within hours, the NYT published a correction stating that osteopathic physicians are not alternative practitioners and are not prohibited from issuing vaccine exemptions.
- In October 2020, the osteopathic medical profession came under fire when the credentials of Sean Conley, DO, who served as physician to former President Donald Trump, were questioned by members of the media and some celebrities. Several media reports incorrectly implied that osteopathic physicians (DOs) are less qualified than allopathic physicians (MDs). In response, the AOA’s staff and Board of Trustees mobilized an aggressive internal and external campaign to set the record straight and correct inaccuracies across print, television and social media channels, resulting in 838,000 social media impressions and dozens of corrections in media outlets, including the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.
- In October 2020, a digital advertisement for FIGS, a professional scrub manufacturing company, showed a scrubs-clad woman wearing a “DO” name badge and holding an upside-down copy of a book titled “Medical Terminology for Dummies.” In response to this insulting and defamatory representation of DOs and female physicians, the AOA demanded immediate removal of the ad. Within hours, the AOA initiated contact with the three principal owners of the company to discuss the offensive ad and outline a path forward that included: a published statement of apology; OMED attendance by 15 members of the FIGS marketing team to gain a more accurate and informed understanding of the osteopathic profession; and a $100,000 donation in support of the AOA’s efforts toward advancing diversity and gender equity in medicine, and enhancing understanding of the osteopathic profession.
Call for transparent use of professional designations
- In September 2021, the AOA released a statement in response to a decision by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists to change its name to the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology. The name change creates confusion between the CRNA credentials and those of physicians practicing anesthesiology, commonly known as “anesthesiologists.” The AOA’s statement reiterated strong concerns outlined in an earlier statement (summarized below) opposing the American Academy of Physician Assistants’ title change. As expressed in both statements, the AOA calls for truth in advertising, intellectual honesty and transparency through the use of consistent and clearly discernible professional designations for all healthcare professionals so that patients can clearly understand the qualifications and roles of their providers.
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.
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.