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The Rear View Mirror and the Road Ahead

Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPHBy Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH
AACOM President and CEO

The new year is always an exciting time … both to reflect on the past and reap the wisdom of another year of experiences and lessons learned, and as a fresh start to plan for and work toward all the goals, projects, and initiatives on the horizon.

Thinking Back on 2016

So many important changes occurred in 2016 that affect AACOM and, more importantly, its constituency—the community of osteopathic medical education. One major area of importance to AACOM’s membership is the ongoing transition to the single accreditation system (SAS) for graduate medical education (GME), which entered its second year in July 2016. Some evolution in SAS included 18 ACGME review committees proposing focused revisions that incorporate AOA board certification within their program requirements, addressing expectations for osteopathic graduates to take American Osteopathic Association (AOA) board certification as desired. Additionally, to encourage the transition process, the AOA approved standards that set deadlines for programs to either apply for ACGME accreditation or stop accepting trainees if the trainees cannot complete the program by June 30, 2020.

AACOM is proud to be an inaugural partner organization of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC)—an initiative that also had its share of growth and achievements in 2016. The Collaborative received the National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education’s (NCIPE) first-ever Pioneer Award for groundbreaking work in advancing the field of interprofessional education and collaborative practice. IPEC also updated the Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaborative Practice and welcomed nine additional members through a new institutional membership category, expanding its representation of associations of schools of the health professions from six to 15.

AACOM was also able to make strides regarding its strategic goal to support diversity in OME by hosting its first Diversity Committee meeting, with representatives from 21 of its member colleges, December 5-6 at the Association’s headquarters in Chevy Chase, MD. The winter meeting provided a forum for COMs to share best practices in diversity programs at each of the colleges, as well as working on the strategic goals of the Committee and plans for continuing its work in diversity.

One of AACOM’s largest initiatives of 2016 is the Association’s first-ever national grassroots advocacy campaign, ED to MED, which was launched last April during AACOM’s Annual Conference. The ED to MED campaign provides a platform for students, medical educators, and other stakeholders to advocate for public policies that work to address medical student debt and its impact on the future physician workforce. In particular, this campaign is pursuing federal policies of importance to osteopathic medical students and schools during the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the law governing federal student financial aid programs. Visit ED to MED today to join the campaign or to learn more.

Resilience was another important recurring topic in the osteopathic medical education (OME) community throughout much of 2016. Promoting resilience across the medical education continuum is essential to the future of our nation’s health care system, particularly as the rate of depression and suicide, drug abuse, and other mental health issues of concern continue to rise. This year, AACOM supported the Mental Health Awareness Task Force (MHATF), a collaborative campaign run by AACOM’s Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents (COSGP) and the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) to promote psychological wellbeing among health care professionals. Through this initiative, the MHATF launched the national mental health and resilience survey, which resulted in more than 10,000 osteopathic medical student responses—the largest survey of its kind ever conducted.

AACOM’s April 2016 conference was also focused on the critical area of resilience. Themed Osteopathic Medical Education: A Focus on Resilience, hosted a program of more than 90 educational sessions and 67 research posters focused on issues such as medical student and physician mental health and resilience.

In December, AACOM also signed on as a member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) 'action collaborative' to promote wellbeing and combat burnout, depression, and suicide among health care professionals.

Looking Forward to 2017

The Joint AACOM & AODME 2017 Annual Conference is quickly approaching, and AACOM and the Association of Osteopathic Directors and Medical Educators (AODME) are working hard to make this year’s program the best to date. This year’s theme, Educating Leaders: Integrated Health Systems, a Paradigm for the Future, will focus on an array of topics related to medical education and practice in a world of integrated health care systems, including GME & Single Accreditation; Aligning Education and Care Delivery; The New Med-Ed: Pedagogy in the Era of Clinical Integration; Learning the New Competencies; and much more. While this theme is expansive and convoluted, I believe that our students—future leaders in the health care community—will benefit greatly from our discoveries through this collaborative exploration of these important topics.

In addition, with a new President and Congress sworn in, informing these newly-elected officials on AACOM’s key policy priorities will be critical for the osteopathic medical education community. Furthermore, the release of AACOM’s Public Policy Agenda for the 115th Congress—a document which outlines our education and health care legislative and regulatory agenda—will serve as an important tool to guide our work with policymakers, federal agencies, and the new Administration. We welcome the opportunity to work with the incoming Administration and Congress and look forward to a productive year.

Coming off 2016—a year marked by many important advancements in the OME community—I am hopeful that 2017 will provide many exciting changes and fascinating discoveries. The important thing to remember as we look at the road ahead is to remain focused, prepare as best we can for the inevitable curves and bumps, and keep our eyes open to the many incredible opportunities that lay just over the horizon.


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Vol. 1, No. 2
January 25, 2017