Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH

AACOM 2016 Annual Conference: Resilience in Osteopathic Medical Education

An Overview


he AACOM 2016 Annual Conference was held April 6-9 in Washington, DC. This was another landmark year for our conference, which drew over 600 registered attendees—the largest solo AACOM conference to date. The theme for this year’s event, “Osteopathic Medical Education: A Focus on Resilience,” was chosen by the conference planning committee, under the leadership of Conference Chairperson Donald Sefcik, DO, MBA, Dean of the Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MU-COM), based on its importance and pertinence in today’s medical education landscape. 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’s program content included 90 educational sessions, 67 research posters, and 35 different industry-specific exhibitors. Popular session topics included high-priority items such as medical student and physician mental health, resilience, and depression. Sessions focusing on interprofessional education and practice, assessment and evaluation, competency-based education, the current federal politics landscape, student debt and graduate medical education (GME), and GME accreditation were also highlights of this year’s conference. I encourage you to visit the AACOM 2016 Annual Conference web page to view session and poster materials, photos, and other conference resources.

Program Highlights

One item of interest from the conference was a presentation by members of the Mental Health Awareness Task Force (MHATF), a project of AACOM’s Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents (COSGP). The presentation outlined the primary results of a groundbreaking study conducted by the MHATF. The study, which asked questions related to mental health, was distributed to more than 26,000 U.S. DO students—the largest of its kind to date. For more information, see AACOM’s recent news release.

The opening keynote address on Wednesday, April 6, was delivered by Aviad Haramati, PhD, Professor of Physiology and Medicine and Director of the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Education (CENTILE) at Georgetown University Medical Center. Dr. Haramati’s presentation, entitled, “Managing Stress, Building Resilience: A Mandate for Every Medical School” was a researched and data-based overview of the current state of resilience in medical students and tactics which have been shown to improve it, such as mindfulness training and group therapy. In this well-attended session, Dr. Haramati called upon attendees to help address depression, burnout, anxiety, and other issues relevant to low levels of resilience in medical students.

Pamela Wible, MD, Founder of the Ideal Medical Care Movement, was AACOM’s plenary speaker on the morning of Thursday, April 7. Dr. Wible’s powerful and interactive presentation entitled, “Humanizing Medical Education: How to Grow a Happy Doctor,” was a follow-up to her recent TEDMED talk about medical student depression and suicide. During her session, Dr. Wible discussed the observations and insights she has gained through her work in student and physician suicide prevention and the Ideal Medical Care Movement. She also invited attendees to come to the stage to discuss their experiences with student suicide and share ideas on how to put an end to what appears to be a growing trend of depression and anxiety in U.S. medical students and physicians.

The final plenary speaker for this year’s conference was Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR). Ms. Liasson’s colorful and informative session provided attendees with an expert insider’s look at the current political landscape during this unique election year. The focus of her presentation was this year’s landmark presidential race, including historical considerations, what factors contributed to the current outcomes and what it means for our nation, and a forecast for the future.

Another highlight from this year’s program was an hour-long evening town hall on AACOM’s ED to MED campaign—a national grassroots advocacy campaign to highlight graduate student debt issues. The town hall was led by Pamela Murphy, MSW, AACOM Vice President of Government Relations, and Mary-Lynn Bender, AACOM Director of Congressional Affairs. The town hall outlined the most important aspects of the campaign, primarily the suggested changes to the Higher Education Act (HEA) and how these changes would affect financial aid and loan repayment programs, as well as a dedicated time to address audience comments and questions.

The primary portion of the conference concluded with our annual awards banquet. This year, we honored several exemplars in the osteopathic medical education community with national awards including the AACOM Board of Deans William D. Miller Award, presented to John G. Rocovich, Jr., Attorney, Chairman at Moss & Rocovich, Attorneys-at-Law, PC, and the Robert A. Kistner Award, presented to Mitchell D. Forman, DO, Professor of Medicine and Former and Founding Dean at the Touro University Nevada College of Osteopathic Medicine (TUNCOM). Awards were also conferred to the Society of Osteopathic Medical Educators (SOME) Innovation in Medical Education Award winners, the National Student DO of the Year, National Student Researcher of the Year (SROY), Outstanding Advancement in Osteopathic Medical Education Award, and the Excellence in Communications Best in Show. In addition, several new National Academy of Osteopathic Medical Educators (NAOME) Fellows were announced as well as re-applicants and an emeritus fellow. View the related press release for more information.

Looking to the Future

As AACOM turns its focus to next year’s conference, seeking the topics and themes most important to our community, the conference planning committee will continue to strive to ensure that the programming and fellowship offered by the 2017 Annual Conference will enhance the opportunities for members of the osteopathic community to come together and collaborate on critical issues and innovations.

Mark your calendars

AACOM & AODME 2017 Annual Conference
April 26 – 29 in Baltimore, MD

We look forward to seeing you there!


Inside OME Header
April/May 2016
Vol. 10, No. 4