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Dear Colleagues:


The AOA is committed to enhancing our specialty board certification to serve the needs and interests of the full spectrum of DOs. Today, 114,000 DOs practice in every specialty and in all geographies, and 65 percent are under the age of 45. The AOA wants to be inclusive of all.


As we shared news about enhancements and our plan to offer new pathways to certification, concerns and misinformation arose. You may have seen an online petition circulating regarding our proposed changes. Several states are considering resolutions. I’d like to take a moment to clarify a few points.


This is a DO-led effort, and the changes we are making are rooted in DO input. We surveyed and listened to a cross-section of AOA- and ACGME-trained DOs, MDs, program directors, residents, and other stakeholders. Early career physicians clearly told us they want more options for specialty certification. As we develop these options, we’re receiving guidance from our specialty certifying boards, specialty colleges, a steering committee, and a Board of Trustees task force.


Let me be clear: We are not eliminating osteopathic content in our exams. In fact, we are developing focused and more comprehensive osteopathic content for DOs who wish to validate their mastery of osteopathic principles and practice.


DOs who use OMT in practice are only one part of our growing and diverse family. We are creating a pathway to certification for DOs who have little or no post-grad OMT training, and prefer not to have OMT assessment included. When I did my ophthalmology residency, I was one of a small number of DOs nationwide who trained in an ACGME program. By July 2020, just 16 months from now, all DOs will train in ACGME programs. These new physicians have very different needs and expectations than my generation. It’s important to remember we all are DOs, and we train and practice in a variety of environments.


Like all our exams, the specialty-only exam will be developed by practicing osteopathic physicians. The whole-person, patient-centered philosophy of osteopathic medicine will be embedded in the exam by virtue of their training.


The specialty-only exam is an opportunity to encourage DOs to remain connected to the osteopathic profession and its values. It also provides a certification pathway for MDs who share our values, especially those trained in osteopathically-recognized residency programs. This strengthens our profession and advances our mission of expanding osteopathic care to patients.


We’re still early in the process to strengthen and evolve our certifying boards. Plans are not complete, our language is not perfect, and we don’t yet have answers to all the questions you may have. By definition, innovation at this scale outpaces details and precedes changes to standards and policies. As part of the implementation process, AOA will review current policies and standards and, if necessary, recommend revisions to the Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists and Board of Trustees. And we will continue listening and seeking input as we refine and implement our plans.


Demand for certification options has grown, and the potential diplomate pool for initial and OCC is larger than ever. We face a clear opportunity to attract and include a broader share of the physician market with more convenient, relevant certification aligned with physicians’ needs and practice.

We value your support as we make changes to strengthen AOA board certification. We are confident these enhancements will meet the needs and expectations of the entire osteopathic family, and position the profession for continued growth and success.






William S. Mayo, DO
President, American Osteopathic Association

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