A Letter to the DO Graduate Class of 2017

Stephen C. Shannon,DO, MPH

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


ear Class of 2017,

I would like to start by congratulating each and every one of you on the significant accomplishment you have just achieved. Medical school is a rigorous journey—full of ups and downs, successes and failures—and in the coming years, you will continue to develop skills, gain knowledge and understanding, and undergo experiences that will shape your career as a physician. Down the road, the possibilities are endless, but for now you can look back on the past four years with a special sense of pride shared by only a very small percentage of the world. You are a doctor—and not just any doctor… you are a DO.

You are entering medicine at an exciting time, but a time of extreme change and uncertainty. With many aspects of the U.S. health care system in flux, you have an opportunity to help shape the future of health care. This year, nearly 6,000 medical students graduated from one of the nation’s 33 COMs, compared with just 3,000 graduates a decade ago. As the number of DO graduates continue to grow every year, you are now a part of a vital workforce helping to address the physician shortage by exemplifying the patient-centered, prevention-focused, compassionate health care that characterizes osteopathic medicine. This is the quality of care that patients deserve and the direction that medicine is heading, and you are uniquely positioned to help lead the way.

Much of what our nation is demanding from its health care system is embodied in the osteopathic philosophy of care—a strong foundation in primary care, patient-centered principles aimed at maintaining good health, and close physician-patient relationships that make patients partners in their health and well-being. I am proud of the traditions and innovation that characterize osteopathic medicine and pleased to welcome you all as the newest members of our profession.

Much of what is expected honors time old traditions merged with 21st century innovation. While we may use the latest technological devices for diagnosis and treatment—it is the art of communication, respect and empathy that will engage our patients and families in their search for health. While we analyze data on the population of patients we treat, we put each person in their own life’s context as we work with them on the choices they must make. While we work with teams of other health professionals, we keep the patient in the center of our care. And while we know that our patients’ lives and well-being are impacted by the social and economic circumstances impacting their health, we seek ways to overcome these problems and work to address the overarching issues that impact the health of all in our society.

You are now starting your residencies, in a wide variety of specialties, locations, health care facilities, and circumstances. In the coming years, you will learn new skills, expand your knowledge, and gain experience and confidence in working with your patients as an osteopathic physician. As you enter this next stage, realize that even as you work to help others find health, you must take time to care for yourselves—as whole persons—physically, mentally, spiritually—and to maintain the connections to family and friends that ground us all.


Vol. 1, No. 11
June 29, 2017