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Congressional Letter Urges NIH to Increase Research Funding for Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine

July 20, 2022

NIH Director asked to end historic funding disparity

(Bethesda, MD)- The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) today thanks the members of Congress who sent a letter urging NIH to increase access to research funding at colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) to end an historic funding disparity and unlock the unique potential of osteopathic physicians and researchers to make lasting contributions to our nation’s medical research. The effort was spearheaded by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Representative Susie Lee (D-NV), who worked with AACOM to prepare the letter.

“For decades, NIH has neglected the world class research being done at colleges of osteopathic medicine,” said Dr. Robert A. Cain, AACOM President and CEO. “Increasing funding for osteopathic medical research will help our nation in its efforts to address health disparities in rural and underserved populations, enable us to better understand the COVID-19 pandemic and advance the quality of treatment in primary care and beyond. We thank Senators Heinrich and Wicker as well as Representative Lee for their leadership on this issue.”

“There are over 160 osteopathic medical students at New Mexico’s Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine and over 600 osteopathic doctors currently practicing in New Mexico. If we truly want to address physician shortages and the medical needs of rural and underserved communities, we need to support Osteopathic medicine,” said Senator Heinrich. “That’s why I’m calling on the National Institutes of Health to expand funding opportunities to Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine so that we can enhance the workforce and research capabilities needed to deliver this type of treatment, including non-addictive alternatives to opioids.”

“Colleges of osteopathic medicine like William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, are integral to our health care system,” Senator Wicker said. “These institutions should be at the table for NIH research funding.”

Osteopathic medicine plays a vital role in the nation’s healthcare system and is the fastest growing medical field in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Health Professions. Yet, the clinician workforce and scientists at osteopathic medical schools, are severely underrepresented in NIH funding opportunities and on NIH National Advisory Councils and study sections. Currently, only 0.1 percent of NIH funding goes to osteopathic researchers and institutions. Furthermore, DOs are almost nonexistent on NIH councils and study sections. Along with hampering our nation’s research capabilities, these disparities place osteopathic medical students at a disadvantage for the best residencies because they lack access to NIH- enhanced and funded research opportunities.

Today’s letter builds on congressional language from earlier this year that highlighted the disparity and acknowledged the benefit of osteopathic research. The language was included in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill and requires the NIH to report on the status of funding to COMs and representation on advisory councils and standing study sections. AACOM will continue to lead on this important issue until there is parity in NIH research funding.

About AACOM

The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) leads and advocates for the full continuum of osteopathic medical education to improve the health of the public. Founded in 1898 to support and assist the nation's osteopathic medical schools, AACOM represents all 38 colleges of osteopathic medicine—educating nearly 34,000 future physicians, 25 percent of all U.S. medical students—at 60 teaching locations in 34 U.S. states, as well as osteopathic graduate medical education professionals and trainees at U.S. medical centers, hospitals, clinics and health systems.

Contacts

Joseph Shapiro
Director of Media Relations
(240) 938-0746
jshapiro@aacom.org