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Professional Advocacy

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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 DOs and osteopathic medical students. 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.

Eliminating training barriers for osteopathic medical students & residents

Updated March 15, 2024: In collaboration with our osteopathic partner organizations, the AOA works continuously to eliminate challenges faced by osteopathic medical students during the residency application and selection process. We understand that medical student parity is a top-of-mind concern for thousands of future DOs who are preparing for the next phase of their careers. Ensuring equitable treatment for all members of the osteopathic medical profession is central to our mission of championing the advancement of osteopathic medicine.

In furtherance of this goal, the AOA is working closely with the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) and the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME) to develop initiatives that promote equitable treatment of DO applicants to training programs.

The following list provides an overview of recent activities advanced on behalf of osteopathic medical students and trainees:

  • In the fall of 2023, the AOA joined with AACOM to convene a Student Parity Summit, with participation from national organizations that oversee osteopathic and allopathic medical education. Participating organizations included the AOA, AACOM, the American Medical Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the National Resident Matching Program. Several outcomes and next steps were identified and are being advanced as part of a shared action plan that includes: (1) A joint statement outlining the workforce benefits of including osteopathic physicians in residency programs; (2) Meetings with program directors across various specialties to gain insights on current behaviors and attitudes; (3) Further data analysis; (4) Review of VSLO and ERAS filters and participation policies; and (5) Plans for future meetings to identify additional opportunities for collaboration.
  • DOs and osteopathic medical students who encounter discrimination or professional barriers related to access to training, licensure or credentialing are encouraged to report incidents to the AOA at [email protected]. Since July 2023, the AOA has responded to 17 requests for advocacy assistance, half of which were submitted by osteopathic medical students reporting issues related to rotation or residency application processes.
  • The AOA meets quarterly with leaders from AACOM and NBOME to share and discuss information reported by osteopathic medical students regarding barriers to securing clinical rotations and applying to residency programs.
  • AOA staff leaders communicate directly with members of the program director and GME community about issues osteopathic medical students face, including the universal acceptance of COMLEX.
  • The AOA works continuously to advocate for GME equity through presentations and remarks delivered by AOA leaders at state and national medical conferences. In addition, AOA staff delivered a presentation on osteopathic medical education at the ACGME Annual Education Conference and educated medical licensing board staff as part of a program developed by the FSMB and Administrators in Medicine (AIM).

We will continue to aggressively advocate for the expansion of residency opportunities for our osteopathic medical school graduates and will keep you informed of future initiatives and developments. If you are an osteopathic medical student or resident in need of professional advocacy or support, please contact us at [email protected].

In addition to the initiatives listed above, the AOA continuously works on behalf of osteopathic medial students and trainees to ensure equitable practices in the following areas:

  • 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.

Combatting misinformation in the media

  • In November 2023, the AOA responded swiftly and aggressively when misleading comments regarding the DO credentials were made by host Sunny Hostin on an episode of “The View.” While discussing a report on former President Donald Trump’s health that was released by his personal physician, who is a DO, Hostin indicated that a DO is different than a “medical doctor.” AOA President Ira P. Monka, DO, and CEO Kathleen S. Creason, MBA, responded quickly to set the record straight by alerting show producers and hosts to the misleading statement and providing fact-based resources to increase understanding of the critical role DOs play in the nation’s workforce.
  • 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 coordinated 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.

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.
  • In May 2021, the AOA released a statement and launched an aggressive social media campaign calling for transparent 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.

Recognition of AOA Board Certification

The AOA works continuously to ensure recognition of AOA Board Certification by employers, insurers and other entities across all practice areas and medical specialties. Any AOA board-certified DO who encounters obstacles in this area should contact us by emailing [email protected].

Expanding international recognition of DO credentials

Since the osteopathic medical model originated in the U.S. and accredited colleges of osteopathic medicine only exist in the U.S., the AOA is uniquely positioned to advocate for DOs’ ability to gain unlimited medical licensure globally. In addition to advocating on behalf of individual members seeking licensure abroad, the AOA has made significant strides in advancing recognition of the profession in recent years. Important milestones include:

  • 2018: The International Labor Organization, an agency of the United Nations, issued a letter affirming that U.S.-trained DOs are fully licensed physicians who prescribe medication and perform surgery, and drew a clear distinction between U.S.-trained DOs and non-physician osteopaths who practice outside of the U.S.
  • 2019: The Association of Medical Councils of Africa passed a resolution granting the AOA’s request to recognize U.S.-trained DOs as fully licensed physicians with practice rights equivalent to MDs in 20 African countries.
  • 2022: The World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) awarded recognition status to the AOA’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) for 10 years, thereby acknowledging that COCA-accredited COMs meet standards that are equivalently rigorous to other top medical schools worldwide.
  • 2023: The International Association of Medical Regulatory Authorities (IAMRA) passed a resolution supporting the equivalency of U.S.-trained DOs and MDs among its 47 member countries worldwide. During the meeting, AOA Past President Boyd Buser, DO, was also elected to the IAMRA Board of Directors, thereby strengthening our connections with other leading medical groups and licensing bodies around the world.

 

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