AOA leaders open Board meeting citing profession’s strength, influence

The osteopathic medical profession’s voice in Washington, D.C., is stronger than ever, says AOA President-elect Martin S. Levine, DO, MPH.


AOA leaders opened the Board of Trustees’ annual meeting in Chicago today emphasizing the profession’s growing cohesiveness and influence—and the added responsibilities those gains imply.

AOA President Karen J. Nichols, DO, who chose “Teamwork” as the theme of her presidency, said collaboration with state osteopathic medical associations and osteopathic specialty societies has proved vital to progress on the AOA’s 2011-13 strategic plan. She highlighted a retreat last fall to discuss strategies for implementing the plan, the goals of which include streamlining the association’s decision-making process, prioritizing investments in the AOA’s products and services, and boosting efforts to reach out to all DOs, members and nonmembers alike.

“It was really a watershed moment of the states and specialties all working together,” she said. “And I’ll never forget one of the specialty presidents who came up and said, ‘I didn’t know the AOA Board cared about what I thought or even listened to what I thought—let alone incorporate what I thought.’ We’ve really opened up our thought process and actually turned it upside down to be sure we are engaging the entire profession.”

And that engagement extends also to the profession’s youngest members. During her visits to medical schools, Dr. Nichols said she often repeated a quote from Jeffrey S. Grove, DO, the president of the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association. “I once heard him say to a group of students, ‘This is your profession more than it is mine,’ ” Dr. Nichols said.

She added that students would often look perplexed. “They’d get their look on their face, like, ‘What do you mean? I’m a first-year medical student. You’re the president of the AOA. And I’d say, ‘But look how long I have to influence the profession, and look how long you have to influence the profession.’ They’re not the future of the profession—they are the profession right now. We need to embrace them and include them in what we’re doing.”

Teamwork proves pervasive

AOA President-elect Martin S. Levine, DO, MPH, said the teamwork spirit pervades the profession, affecting “how we interact with each other, the way we function and especially in our interactions with the government.”

He added that the osteopathic medical profession’s voice in Washington, D.C., is stronger than ever. “It’s up to us now to make our position even more influential down in Washington and everywhere else we go,” Dr. Levine said.

Dr. Levine told the audience that federal officials have increasingly sought out DOs to name to national committees and projects. “Our name is out there. We are going to be watched more closely than ever as an entity. We have become a tremendous force in the United States and abroad.”

Picking up on the profession’s increasing influence and presence, AOA Executive Director John B. Crosby, JD, said osteopathic physicians have practice rights in 57 countries. “And that is growing almost weekly,” he said. “Last week, we got a letter from the country of the Gambia in Africa, asking what they could do to establish practice rights.”

Crosby also stressed that as a prominent medical organization, the AOA has the responsibility to weigh in on problems, such as the country’s debt crisis, that have implications for members and patients. “The AOA is a leader in Washington already,” he said, “and we have great tools at our disposal.” Issues such as the national debt could have a large impact on Medicare, physician payment and graduate medical education, he said. “Our members expect us to be outspoken about it,” Crosby said. “And we will continue to write President Obama and the leaders in Congress to fight this fight on behalf of our members.”

He added that the AOA’s goal is to become the premier medical association in the world: “I think we can do it.”

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