AACOM Releases Outcomes from the Task Force on Ethics and Professionalism

June 20, 2019


Paul DeMiglio
Senior Media Specialist

In the wake of the Larry Nassar trial and conviction, AACOM formed the Task Force on Ethics and Professionalism in 2018 to evaluate current professional standards and ethics, assess curricular designs, and make necessary recommendations to further strengthen every aspect of the osteopathic medical education (OME) system and professional standards. Over the last year, the members of the Task Force met three times in person and held multiple conference calls to review evidence, explore best practices, and hear presentations from experts.

The first outcomes of this process are three model policy templates, which AACOM is releasing today. These policies are focused in the areas of campus climate tools and research, including victimization, chaperoning, and student consent. The policy templates are customizable to fit any institution, including freestanding colleges of osteopathic medicine (COM), COMs that are part of a larger university or system, medical centers, hospitals, clinics, or health systems.

The first model policy is the AACOM Model Policy on Civil Rights Equity Resolution for All Faculty, Students, and Employees—a comprehensive policy that includes sexual harassment, bullying, and victimization reporting and investigation. This policy is not only Title IX-compliant, but also provides a best practice for approaching civil rights issues with an emphasis on equity, meaningful remedies, victim empowerment and advocacy, comprehensive investigation, procedural fairness to all parties, and prompt resolution of reported misconduct. AACOM has also developed an executive summary to guide members through the many components of this important model policy.

All patients are entitled to have their medical interactions conducted with appropriate privacy and confidentiality protections; therefore, the second model policy—the AACOM Model Policy on Chaperoning of Patients—addresses safe environments for patients, staff, and students in the clinical environment. Institutions can use this policy to appropriately implement chaperoning for consultations, examinations, treatments, or procedures where the patient considers it necessary.

The third model policy is the AACOM Policy on Safe Osteopathic Clinical Training for Students. Students learn osteopathic manipulative medicine, a special feature of osteopathic medical education that COMs provide, through both practicing and experiencing these techniques. This policy represents recommendations to the OME community to encourage a culture of safety and respect, as well as best practices in teaching informed consent around OMM and pertains to student consent and informed consent.

The Task Force has worked with the OME community to explore these topics with our COMs and their students. One such effort was student-led research from Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific entitled Prevalence, Attitudes, and Effects of Sexual Assault and Harassment in Osteopathic Medical Schools, a Pilot Study. This study describes the experience of osteopathic medical students from across the country regarding sexual harassment and victimization on COM campuses. The authors received first place in the student poster category at Educating Leaders 2019, the AACOM Annual Conference.

The Task Force is led by Chair Margaret Wilson, DO, Dean, A.T. Still University Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and Co-Chair Timothy Kowalski, DO, Dean, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Carolinas. It will be expanding the list of model policies with additional topics to be released in the summer and fall of 2019. Upcoming content will focus on identifying and responding to victimization in patients, students, and residents; bystander training; teaching boundary issues; teaching consent and informed consent; and behaviors that students may encounter in classes, workshops, and on rotations.

To learn more about this initiative, visit the Task Force website


Vol. 3, No. 10
June 27, 2019