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A recent vote by the American Osteopathic Association’s House of Delegates clears the way for the unification process to begin
Starting in 2020, both allopathic and osteopathic graduate medical programs will be accredited under a uniform system.
The American Osteopathic Association’s (AOA) House of Delegates voted July 19 to ratify an agreement announced in February between the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine to use a single accreditation system for graduate medical education (GME) programs. The vote clears the way to begin unifying the accreditation process for allopathic and osteopathic graduate programs.
Robert Juhasz, DO“The AOA strongly believes the public will benefit from a single standardized system to evaluate the effectiveness of GME [graduate medical education] programs for producing competent physicians,” Robert Juhasz, DO, newly-elected AOA president, said in a statement. “The new GME accreditation system will recognize the unique principles and practices of the osteopathic medical profession and its contributions to healthcare in the U.S.”
“The osteopathic program has been growing so fast that the number of our residency slots can’t keep up with the number of new graduates who need them,” adds Charles Simpson, AOA associate executive director of communications.“Many of our students are going into ACGME programs for their post-graduate training, and that’s part of what’s driving this.”
Craig Wax, DO, a family physician in Mullica Hill, New Jersey and Medical Economics editorial board member, is critical of the agreement, calling it a “desperation move.”
“The message we repeatedly get from the AOA board and leadership is we have to do this, or we won’t have enough residency slots to get our graduates into,” Wax says. “I’m concerned this is being rammed down members’ throats without due consideration of the consequences, and understanding of all the alternatives.”
Wax adds that the real source of the problem is that osteopathic medical schools expanded too quickly in recent decades, and without sufficiently considering the availability of graduate training slots. “They (the AOA board) had their eye on one potential solution, rather than focusing on the problem of how do we get more money to fund residencies,” Wax says. “Practicing D.O.s are almost universally against this agreement.”
Juhasz says the agreement will help address the nation’s growing shortage of primary care physicians by making more training slots available to graduates of osteopathic schools, about 60% of whom go into some form of primary care. But they face a “bottleneck” in graduate training slots due to caps in federal funding for GME.
Juhasz says AOA members have had ample time to consider the agreement and offer input. “We’ve been having an ongoing dialogue with ACGME since 2012 that’s been reported to the membership,” he says. Since arriving at the agreement in February, “there have been multiple opportunities for dialogue with the profession at state and specialty society meetings to help them understand how we’ve moving forward.”