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Student SAS Webinar Recap: Top 9 Things Students Need to Know


he five-year phase-in period for the single graduate medical education (GME) accreditation system (SAS) is now entering its second year. The system is expected to: ensure a consistent method of evaluating residents, expand training for both DO and MD trainees, build a stronger voice for GME, and perpetuate the distinctive elements of osteopathic medical education (OME).

As the 2017 residency match cycle begins, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) recently hosted a student webinar, “Navigating the Single GME Accreditation System”, on June 29, 2016, to equip students with timely information on the transition. The webinar featured presentations by AACOM President and CEO Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, American Osteopathic Association (AOA) President-Elect Boyd R. Buser, DO, and Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Senior Vice President Lorenzo Pence, DO.  View the webinar and slides

Top 9 FAQs Every Osteopathic Medical Student Needs to Know

  1. What will and will not change with SAS?

    SAS is all about GME accreditation and nothing else. The rest of the continuum of the osteopathic educational system including pre-doctoral education, COMLEX-USA, board certification, and osteopathic continuing medical education (CME) will continue to thrive and be distinctive.

    SAS webinar_graphic_resized

  2. Are there any updates related to the residency match?

    The AOA residency Match, administered by the National Matching Services Inc. (NMS), and the Main Residency Match, administered through the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP), are the two largest residency match systems. The final AOA Match is expected to occur no later than 2019. For the upcoming 2017 match, the expectation is that all AOA-accredited programs will participate in the AOA Match. If an AOA-accredited program applied for and received ACGME accreditation, the program can continue to participate in the AOA match as long as they maintain their AOA accreditation. Programs will not be withdrawn from the AOA Match simply because they received ACGME accreditation. The process will work similarly to the dually-accredited programs that have existed and matched in both match systems in the past. The AOA Opportunities website is one of the best sources of information on the status of programs.

    Learn more: AOA Opportunities website2016 AACOM Osteopathic Medicine Match InfographicNRMP’s Newly ACGME-accredited Osteopathic Institutions/Programs FAQs,
    New! How will the residency match process change during the transition? 

    The goal of this transition is not to harm graduates and residents, the goal is to ease their transition. We do not expect AOA programs to suddenly pull out of the AOA Match mid-cycle.” Boyd R. Buser, DO

  3. How will the new AOA Program Application Deadlines impact the upcoming Match?

    In order to protect residents during the transition, the AOA adopted new standards that require programs to apply for ACGME accreditation in a timely fashion. As such, programs that are four or more years in length will need to apply for ACGME accreditation by January 1, 2017, in order to participate in the 2017 match.

    Learn more: View the chart of AOA Program Application Deadlines by SpecialtyAOA Opportunities website

  4. Which licensure examination (COMLEX-USA/USMLE) should students take?

    COMLEX-USA and USMLE were created primarily for the purpose of licensure although residency programs use the scores to help screen applicants and decide who they will interview. One requirement for all DO students is to take and pass COMLEX Level 1 and Level 2-CE and 2-PE in order to graduate from a college of osteopathic medicine (COM).

    The ACGME as an organization does not require USMLE or COMLEX-USA. However, what the individual programs choose to do is within their purview. According to Program Director Surveys by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), over 75 percent of ACGME-accredited GME program directors accept the COMLEX-USA as part of their evaluation of osteopathic medical student applicants. There is a significant amount of information available to program directors on how to compare COMLEX-USA and USMLE scores. As the transition proceeds, it is expected that the acceptance and use of COMLEX will continue to increase.

    Students should look at the specialties they are interested in and make a decision about which exam to take based on what program directors may require in these specialties, this may differ by specialty and individual program(s).

    Learn more: Clarification on ACGME Exceptionally-Qualified Applicant Provision for Fellowship Programs & COMLEX-USAFAQs on COMLEX-USA/USMLENational Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME)

  5. What should we know about board certification?

    DO graduates that enter an AOA-accredited program during the transition that subsequently achieves ACGME accreditation and discontinues AOA accreditation, will still be eligible for AOA board certification. Once the transition ends, students will have the choice to pursue AOA and/or ABMS board certification. There are now updated resources showing board eligibility during the transition for both AOA and ABMS board certification.

    Learn more: ABMS and AOA Board Eligibility during Transition Chart, ACGME FAQs on board certification

  6. What is osteopathic recognition and why is it important?

    Osteopathic recognition is a designation that is available to any program that is accredited by the ACGME. It is a commitment by a program to teach and assess osteopathic principles and practices (OPP) at the GME level. It is important as it provides an organized approach to perpetuate osteopathic medicine’s contributions to patient care, creates opportunities for all physicians to learn OPP, and creates program distinctiveness. Programs are already applying for and receiving osteopathic recognition. Of the 54 programs that have applied as of June 30, 2016, 36 programs have achieved initial recognition. 14 programs that have applied are programs that were previously only ACGME accredited. It is likely that these programs are seeking osteopathic recognition to attract DO candidates! Programs that have been reviewed by the Osteopathic Principles Committee (OPC) and determined to comply with osteopathic recognition requirements will achieve initial recognition status.

    Learn more: List of programs with osteopathic recognition or applied but not reviewed

  7. What should students know about program eligibility requirements?

    Programs that are in pre-accreditation status afford residents with some flexibility in how the ACGME common program requirements in 2016 will apply. Residents in programs with pre-accreditation status will be subject to eligibility requirements in effect in 2013 or 2016, whichever are less restrictive.

    In addition, students should know about the eligibility FAQs for ACGME specialties with a preliminary year. Several ACGME review committees that require a preliminary year have determined that during the transition to the SAS, residency programs will be permitted flexibility in accepting residents who complete training in an AOA-accredited internship program that are not yet pre-accredited or accredited by the ACGME. Each relevant ACGME RC has issued FAQs to clarify their decisions.

    Learn more: ACGME Program Eligibility RequirementsEligibility FAQs for ACGME Specialties with a Preliminary Year and AOA-approved Preliminary Year

  8. What should fourth-year students do now?
    • Familiarize yourself with the single accreditation system
    • Ask programs if they plan to apply for ACGME accreditation and osteopathic recognition
    • Contact experts on campus such as the GME dean, advisors, or others
    • Find out what your board eligibility options are and what your fellowship options may be
    • Be familiar with the AOA NMS match, NRMP match, and ERAS
    • Contact the ACGME (singlegme@acgme.org), AOA (singlegme@osteopathic.org), and AACOM (singlegme@aacom.org) for more information

    Lorenzo Pence

     "...Students should be familiar with the transition to the single accreditation system...seek information from sources such as the ACGME, AOA, and AACOM ...and contact the experts on the COM campuses that are familiar with GME and the residency application process to work with them as you navigate this process."
    Lorenzo Pence, DO

  9. What are the important resources every student should have?

Each organization is working very hard to ensure the success of this transition, to keep student issues at the forefront, and ensure timely information. It is important as the transition progresses that you raise questions or concerns and bring these to our attention so that we may be able to address them.” Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH

Visit AACOM’s new online portal for student-dedicated resources and information, Student Central: Guide to the Single GME Accreditation System.

Important SAS Vocabulary


What does it mean if a program is in pre-accreditation status?

This status is applied to an AOA-accredited program that has submitted an application for ACGME accreditation (granted immediately upon receipt of application). These programs are fully-accredited by the AOA and participate in the AOA match. These programs have not yet been reviewed by the respective ACGME specialty review committee (RC). These programs can apply for osteopathic recognition but cannot be reviewed until they receive ACGME accreditation. Individuals who complete programs that are in pre-accreditation or continued pre-accreditation status will be subject to ACGME program eligibility requirements in effect in 2013 or 2016, whichever is less restrictive.  


What does it mean if a program is in continued pre-accreditation status?


This status is applied to an AOA-accredited program that has been reviewed by an ACGME RC but did not receive ACGME accreditation. They are still fully accredited by the AOA so are still good programs to pursue. However, they have been given feedback from the ACGME RC on what they need to address to meet their requirements and will be reviewed at the RC’s subsequent meetings. These programs have same benefits on program eligibility as those in pre-accreditation status.  


What does it mean if a program is in initial accreditation status?


This status is applied to an AOA-accredited program that was reviewed by the ACGME RC and achieved ACGME accreditation. The program can choose to participate in the NRMP match and/or the AOA match.  


What does it mean if a program is in initial accreditation contingent status?


This status is applied to an AOA-accredited program that was reviewed by the ACGME RC and found to meet requirements for ACGME accreditation but the sponsoring institution has not yet achieved accreditation. This program is fully AOA-accredited although not ACGME accredited until its sponsoring institution receives initial accreditation. The institution has a two-year window to achieve accreditation, although the process in most instances is not expected to take that long.

What is a dually-accredited program? 

These programs are accredited by both the AOA and the ACGME. These programs can participate in the NMS and/or the NRMP match.  


Contact the ACGME (singlegme@acgme.org), AOA (singlegme@osteopathic.org), and AACOM (singlegme@aacom.org) for more information.