Biden Names His Primary Care Physician, Kevin O’Connor, DO, as White House Doctor



February 8, 2021

What You Need to Know


January marked America’s deadliest month for the COVID-19 pandemic, and vaccination remains a top priority for our country to start recovering from this debilitating public health emergency. The US House Committee on Energy & Commerce held two important congressional hearings last week to discuss solutions to in the United States and to vaccine production, testing and the medical supply chain. Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration are also negotiating another COVID-19 relief bill, which will include additional funding to support vaccination efforts. AACOM, through its (SAA) initiative, maintains that our country’s nearly one million health professions students can play a vital role in vaccinating America. AACOM and SAA have the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address state-level inconsistencies by extending COVID-19 vaccination authorization to all qualified health professions students.

On The Hill

Democrats Move to Pass COVID-19 Relief with Simple Majority


Last week, a group of Senate Republicans outlined a COVID-19 relief framework in response to the Biden Administration’s . Building on other bipartisan relief packages and incorporating elements of President Biden’s goals, would include direct COVID-19 pandemic aid through vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracing, and personal protective equipment, along with funding for behavioral health and substance abuse services. Unlike the Biden proposal, the Senate GOP plan omits higher education funding.


Democrats in the House and Senate are moving ahead with a bill to advance the next COVID-19 relief package based on the American Rescue Plan. The legislation includes $20 billion for vaccinations, $50 billion for testing, $8 billion for public health workforce expansion, $15 billion for COVID-19 health services for the underserved, and $35 billion for higher education. If budget reconciliation is successful, Democrats would be able to pass the $1.9 trillion package with a simple majority in both chambers. AACOM will engage Congress and the Administration to maximize opportunities for the osteopathic medical education community to play an integral role in this effort.

AACOM Urges Congress to Fund THCGME in COVID-19 Stimulus


AACOM seven national organizations in a letter to congressional leaders of the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce and US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions in support of funding the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program in the next COVID-19 stimulus package. Although the fiscal year (FY) 2021 omnibus spending and COVID-19 stimulus bill , the extension provided only flat funding. Prior to COVID-19, THCs faced uncertain federal funding due to the repeated lack of a long-term reauthorization. Significant financial losses caused by COVID-19 increasingly threaten THCs’ stability and their ability to train the next generation of health professionals who care for rural and medically underserved communities. THC residents play a vital role in treating both COVID and non-COVID patients. AAACOM is advocating for additional THCGME funding to increase access to care in underserved areas where primary care physician shortages are severe, raise the Per Resident Allocation from the level first set in 2011, and provide THC capital grants to facilitate renovation and modernization tied to resident training. AACOM will continue to engage Congress in support of the highly successful and effective THCGME Program.

AACOM Endorses Legislation to Protect Public Health through COVID-19 Research


The Ensuring Understanding of COVID-19 to Protect Public Health Act (S. 176), reintroduced by US Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), seeks to expand our evidence-based understanding of the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 across diverse patient populations. The bill, which , would instruct the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to conduct a longitudinal study on the full effects of COVID-19 and would require frequent public reports of the study’s findings. AACOM this legislation in the 116th Congress.




Apply for AACOM’s Osteopathic Health Policy Fellowship


AACOM’s Osteopathic Health Policy Fellowship is a prestigious, year-long leadership training program for osteopathic physicians and other associated health professionals to develop the skills they need to analyze, formulate and implement health policy on the local, state and national levels. Apply by March 31 to join this .

AACOM, Coalition for Physician Accountability Release Updated Away Rotations Recommendations


Joining its fellow members of the Coalition for Physician Accountability, AACOM released updated recommendations on away rotations for medical schools and non-US medical school applicants for the 2021-2022 academic year. The Coalition is a cross-organizational group of national medical education organizations. .

Striving Toward Greatness: Advocating for Diversity in Medicine


Andrew D. Williams, third-year student at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and AACOM’s Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents National Diversity Representative, graduated from a high school that served an economically disadvantaged area in a small town in Macon, Georgia. Approximately half of the students in Andrew's high school did not graduate on time and only a third were proficient in the sciences. Despite this, Andrew had a burning passion to overcome the numerous challenges presented by his environment to pursue his dreams of becoming a physician and role model to other minority students seeking a .



Administration and Federal Agencies

AACOM-Led Initiative Urges HHS Declaration to Enable Health Professions Students to Administer COVID-19 Vaccines


(SAA), an interprofessional group of 11 associations spearheaded by AACOM, sent a to HHS on January 27 advocating for federal action to supplement the vaccination workforce. Inconsistent professional protocols across states are contributing to uneven distribution and avoidable delays in vaccinations. Specifically, SAA is calling on HHS to issue a Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act declaration to authorize students in the health professions to administer COVID-19 vaccines. SAA is also pursuing language in the pending COVID-19 relief bill, as well as other legislation, to permanently address this exclusion. SAA continues to engage local, state and federal leaders, encouraging them to enlist the nearly one million trained health professions students who stand ready to help end this crisis.

Biden Taps DO as White House Physician


Late last month, President Biden commissioned , to serve as his White House physician. Dr. O’Connor, a graduate of the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM), has served as Biden’s primary care physician since 2009. After graduating from NYITCOM, Dr. O’Connor served 22 years in the US Army, including tours with the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 82nd Airborne Division. While this nonpartisan position is normally considered a military assignment, the now retired Dr. O’Connor is not re-enlisting and will be the first non-active-duty White House physician in nearly 30 years.

Featured Federal Resources and COM Engagement

NIH Awards $1.8 Million Grant to NYITCOM Researcher: Olga V. Savinova, PhD, an assistant professor of biomedical sciences at NYITCOM, secured a five-year, from the NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The multi-year grant will improve the understanding of atherosclerosis, a likely risk factor in predicting heart disease, which affects 30 million adults in the United States. “Our overarching goal is to gain a better understanding of how calcification impacts the onset, progression and treatment of atherosclerosis,” said Savinova, who also received a to examine vascular calcification in chronic kidney disease. “We believe calcification is a risk factor for atherosclerosis and one that can be corrected.” .

Osteopathic Medical Students: Submit Your Curriculum for Innovative Learning and Teaching about Substance Use/Opioid Use Disorders: The Coalition on Physician Education in Substance Use Disorders invites medical students or teams guided by a faculty mentor to submit integrative approaches that embed addiction medicine concepts into an existing curriculum and support medical student learning in addiction, opioid or substance use disorder, alcohol use disorder or the use of stimulants. This effort is designed to stimulate, surface and disseminate state-of-the-art learning resources that ensure that future physicians learn about the prevention, identification, treatment and recovery of patients with substance or opioid use disorders.

Reminder: HRSA Primary Care Maternal Health Program Applications Due February 22: The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is accepting applications through February 22 for the 2021 Primary Care Training and Enhancement-Community Prevention and Maternal Health program. The two-track program trains primary care physicians in maternal healthcare clinical services or population health to improve maternal health outcomes. .

Apply for HRSA’s Rural Communities Opioid Response Program by March 12: Applications are open through March 12 for funding under HRSA’s Rural Communities Opioid Response Program-Implementation. This opportunity will strengthen and expand substance use disorder/opioid use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery services for individuals who reside in HRSA-designated rural areas. .

HRSA Accepting Applications for Evidence-Based Telehealth Program by April 2: HRSA’s Office of Rural Health Policy is accepting applications for the Evidence-Based Telehealth Network Program. This award will demonstrate how telehealth can increase access to healthcare services and establish an evidence base to determine the effectiveness of the care for various stakeholders. Applications are due April 2. .

Visit AACOM's for federal grants of interest to osteopathic medical education.

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