Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH

Thinking Back, Looking Forward


nother year has just begun, and AACOM has already hit the ground running in 2016. There are so many exciting projects and initiatives on the horizon, but before I outline some of the Association’s plans and goals for the next 12 months I believe it’s worthwhile to think back on the previous year—to acknowledge the challenges overcome and appreciate the milestones met—in the osteopathic medical education community. While it is crucial that we keep our eyes focused on the future, it is equally as important to reflect upon lessons learned and use them as a springboard to future success in our profession.

Thinking Back ...

The Association, as well as the profession as a whole, had a truly outstanding year of progress in 2015, and I’d like to highlight a few of those items. Once again we were pleased that DO’s, set to graduate in 2015, did so well in obtaining residency training positions through both the AOA and NRMP matches. . The 2015 NRMP Match was the largest to date, and showcased an osteopathic medical student match rate to first-year graduate medical education (GME) positions at 79.3 percent—the highest it has ever been. When combined with the success of the AOA specialty match, the total placement rate for DO students seeking GME positions in 2015 was 99.41 percent.

Later in March, AACOM and the members of its Educational Council on Osteopathic Principles (ECOP) published a new educational book entitled, A Teaching Guide for Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine. This publication was created as a tool to help medical education professionals teach the basics of osteopathic principles and practice (OPP) and osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). The modules discussed in the text comprise the key elements of OMM and OPP. The publishing of this guide filled a long-standing need in the osteopathic medical education community for a teaching guide that covers the basic elements of OMM and OPP and can serve as an introduction to this distinctive form of medical treatment.

In April, AACOM and AODME held their Joint AACOM and AODME 2015 Annual Conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The event was an overall success, but more notably was the most well-attended AACOM and AODME Joint Annual Conference to date. The meeting attracted some exceptional and well-attended plenaries and sessions, including a presentation from Thomas Nasca, MD, Chief Executive Officer of the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), as well as a thought-provoking roundtable discussion on applying a competency-based approach to medical education featuring expert panelists Eric Holmboe, MD, ACGME; Karin Esposito, MD, PhD, Florida International University; Robert Cain, DO, OU-HCOM; Jill Patton, DO, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital; and Dean Margaret A. Wilson, DO, ATSU-KCOM.

In the wake of a successful conference, AACOM launched its first national digital PR campaign, aptly titled: D.O. More. The campaign features social media outreach using #DOmore2016, a family of graphics, a logo (available for free download and use), and a website. The goal of the campaign launch was to elevate the visibility of osteopathic medical practice among premedical students and the public, while also spotlighting the tremendous role colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) play in preparing physicians of the future. Data released earlier in the year revealed that 25 percent of U.S. first-year medical students are studying osteopathic medicine—the largest percentage ever recorded and excellent fuel for the campaign’s success. By August, the D.O. More campaign generated a combined total of 233,800 online views through AACOM’s Facebook and primary Twitter account, expanded our social media audience by approximately 10 percent, and drove more traffic to AACOM’s website.

Another exciting development in 2015 was AACOM’s partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). AACOM, in collaboration with the VA’s Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA), is now facilitating the dissemination of information to the osteopathic medical education community and its GME partners on an important opportunity to expand GME positions. In 2015, AACOM and the OAA presented a briefing to the OME community on the GME expansion plan, as well as facilitated an informational webinar on the plan. The work between AACOM and the OAA will continue into 2016 in order to engage and inform the OME community about updates and progress with this important initiative.

In early 2014, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), and AACOM approved an agreement to transition to a single accreditation system (SAS) for graduate medical education (GME) by July 2020. On July 1, 2015, that transition officially launched into the first year of development toward a finalized single accreditation system of U.S. GME—a milestone several years in the making. The coming months and years will see the ongoing developments as the historic changes in the nation’s GME system Implemented by the SAS are put into place. View updates on the single accreditation system.

... Looking Forward

Much like 2015, 2016 promises to be a year marked by prominent advancements in the OME community. Based on last year’s success, the Association is looking forward to continued successful GME placements of graduating DO students in 2016. Results will be released in March.

One of AACOM’s largest and most promising new initiatives of 2016 is the Association’s first-ever national grassroots advocacy campaign, ED to MED. AACOM has teamed up with one of DC’s premier public affairs enterprises, DDC, to launch the ED to MED campaign. Congress is currently negotiating the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), the law governing federal student financial aid programs. Many of these programs impact osteopathic medical and other graduate and professional student loans and repayment options. The ED to MED campaign is targeted toward helping students, medical educators, and other stakeholders advocate for public policy decisions affecting medical students and osteopathic medical schools. Visit today to learn more and sign-up.

A major marketing push for the ED to MED campaign will occur at the AACOM 2016 Annual Conference. Along with the campaign rollout, this year’s conference promises to be the best conference the Association has hosted to date. This year’s theme, Osteopathic Medical Education: A Focus on Resilience, will turn the programming inward and focus on timely issues facing the people who work within the modern health care landscape. These topics include managing change, debt and financial literacy, endurance and burnout, professionalism, mental health and emotional intelligence, and overall wellness. This theme was chosen at a particularly pertinent time for the profession, as many of these topics are issues contributing to an increase in stress-related health problems, as well as depression and other mental illnesses among the health professions. A solution to these problems—problems affecting many individuals in our own profession—can only be found through first acknowledging the problem and learning about it—something we hope to achieve through the programming at this year’s conference. After all, it is only with a thorough understanding of an issue that we can begin making a plan to address it.

This coming fall, the nation’s osteopathic medical schools will welcome the largest class of incoming DO students ever with a projected size of 7,200. With the 2016 entering class, the total number of U.S. osteopathic medical students will also create a new high water mark— 27,000—an important accomplishment for the entire OME system.

Beyond the graduations that will take place in the spring and summer—the perennial sending off of a new crop of qualified, newly-minted DOs into the next steps of their respective career paths—there are many exciting milestones just around the corner. Some we are planning for and working towards, and others remain unseen. However, if we keep ourselves focused and mindful of the anticipated challenges ahead, and prepare for the unanticipated, we will be able look back on 2016 a year from now with a sense of accomplishment and look toward the years to come with strength and enthusiasm.

Inside OME Header
January 2016
Vol. 10, No. 1