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AOA’s National Osteopathic Advocacy Center opens its doors in Washington

Just half a mile from the White House, the NOAC serves as the new headquarters for the AOA’s federal advocacy efforts.


It’s been six years since former AOA president John A. Strosnider, DO,
challenged the profession with the Greatness Campaign. The goal: to boost the awareness and influence of osteopathic medicine throughout the United States.

In 2010 the AOA upped the ante. The association resolved to use funds from the Greatness Campaign to expand its presence in Washington, D.C., and create a physical focal point for its efforts to protect and advance the osteopathic medical profession’s best interests. On March 8, that focal point came into focus as the National Osteopathic Advocacy Center (NOAC) opened its doors.

Just half a mile from the White House, the NOAC serves as headquarters for the AOA’s government advocacy efforts. These include providing crucial information to key policymakers, such as Congress, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education, and seeding nationwide grassroots actions by DOs.

Some 1,000 donors pledged more than $1 million to create the new advocacy center. Many of their names are etched on plaques throughout the complex. The Wall of Honor, for example, displays the names of people who contributed $1,000 or more. Naming rights to several individual offices and rooms at the center were sold, too.

Grand design

An advisory committee consisting of former AOA presidents Karen J. Nichols, DO, and Larry A. Wickless, DO, and AOA Trustee Robert S. Juhasz, DO, oversaw the project. The original plan was to purchase an entire building for the NOAC, similar to the AOA’s headquarters in Chicago. But real estate prices in Washington were a rude awakening. Instead, the advisory committee deemed it best to sign a 10-year lease and renovate the AOA’s Washington office where it sat on Vermont Avenue.

The biggest challenge was creating a budget that allowed the AOA to have an up-to-date office that was attractive without being ostentatious.

As such, the new NOAC is far from showy. Seattle-based architectural firm SKB designed the space to be functional and elegant. The complex features convertible conference space that can be configured as one, two or three conference rooms, each with state-of-the-art audio-visual technology; offices for the AOA’s Washington staff and visiting physicians; and a room for osteopathic manipulative treatment, complete with a cutting-edge OMT table.

The new center is adorned with interesting design touches, including a room-length, floor-to-ceiling historical timeline of the osteopathic medical profession inscribed on glass. It begins with 1874, the year Andrew Taylor Still proposed his medical philosophy, and ends with NOAC’s March 2012 opening. In the lobby, there’s a large interactive touch-screen television loaded with information on the profession and its past and present leaders. Vintage artwork and news clippings from osteopathic medicine’s olden days line the walls.

The lobby is named in honor of former AOA president Marcelino Oliva, DO, who’s life work was to promote osteopathic medicine in the U.S. Dr. Oliva died in July 2011, before the construction could be completed.

“I know that anyone that visits the NOAC, the Oliva Lobby, the Wall of Honor and the great spaces within the facility, which were generously supported by members of our osteopathic family, will be very proud of what has been done to enhance the AOA’s presence in Washington,” Dr. Juhasz says.

Work must go on

AOA staffers were relocated twice during the renovation. They worked in temporary offices on long folding tables, with only the most crucial resources flanking them in boxes. Eventually, the staff moved back into the offices amid construction.

“Originally, we had the opportunity to utilize another floor within the building, which would have precluded the AOA Washington Staff having to move to temporary space,” Dr. Juhasz says. “But in the long run, the AOA was able to acquire addition space on the fifth floor that allowed us to maintain natural lighting and a better view from our facilities.”

Fittingly, the newly redesigned office opened with a reception at the conclusion of DO Day on Capitol Hill, the profession’s federal call to arms that pairs DOs and medical students with their members of Congress on Capitol Hill. The U.S. surgeon general, Vice Adm. Regina Benjamin, MD, USPHS, was on hand to mark the occasion.

As Dr. Juhasz puts it: “Advocacy, on behalf of our members, is one of the key pathways of the AOA’s strategic plan.”

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