Laura M. Jordan, OMS III, the winner of last year’s history essay contest, accepts her award from Michael A. Seffinger, DO (left), and AOA Trustee Thomas L. Ely, DO.

History essay contest: Students, interns and residents can win up to $5,000

The AOA’s annual competition encourages students, interns and residents to study the profession’s past struggles and achievements.

To encourage osteopathic medical students, interns and residents to study their profession’s past struggles and achievements, the AOA is conducting its ninth annual history essay competition.

“Osteopathic medicine is at another historical tipping point,” says AOA Editor in Chief Robert Orenstein, DO. “Our professional schools are expanding, our postgraduate opportunities are growing, and osteopathic medicine has the opportunity to lead the changes for the future of health care. The history of osteopathic medicine is one of both revolution and evolution. Its understanding is the roadmap to our future.”

As it has done since 2006, the AOA will provide awards for up to three winners: a $5,000 first prize, a $3,000 second prize and a $2,000 third prize.

Competition details

The deadline for the competition is Monday, Aug. 4. In drafting their essays, contestants should follow the instructions for “Special Communication” articles found in the “Information for Authors” guidelines of The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA).

The maximum essay length is 3,000 words. The word count should be noted at the beginning of the essay, as should the core principle that the essay addresses. In addition, essays should be submitted as Microsoft Word documents, using 12-point Times New Roman font.

In early June, contestants will be able to submit their essays through an online submission system, which will be available on Contestants with questions can call (800) 621-1773, ext. 8166 or email

Core principles

Contestants should focus their essays on the “Core Principles for Teaching the History of Osteopathic Medicine.” Of the 20 core principles, the 2014 essay competition will focus on five. Featured core principles are rotated annually so that the competition emphasizes different historical milestones each year.

The five core principles for the 2014 competition are as follows:

  • Core Principle 6: The struggle for defining osteopathy’s scope of practice and the respective intellectual positions of those who favored broad and narrow scopes of practice. (Note: In developing the core principles, the AOA used the term osteopathy to refer to the profession during the period in which most DOs practiced strictly manipulative medicine.)
  • Core Principle 7: The eventual transformation of osteopathy into osteopathic medicine.
  • Core Principle 9: The political efforts of DOs to obtain equal licensure provisions and equal treatment with MDs under the law.
  • Core Principle 14: The U.S. Department of Education’s and the former Council on Postsecondary Accreditation’s decisions to recognize AOA accreditation of medical colleges.
  • Core Principle 16: The factors leading to and the consequences of DOs being admitted to the uniformed services as physicians and surgeons.

Advice for essayists

The AOA is seeking in-depth and original investigation on specific principles.

Contestants are encouraged to seek out faculty members with publishing experience to advise them on their essays. They are also encouraged to uncover and study long-forgotten documents and talk with witnesses who remember the past.

In addition, though contestants will be writing about just one core principle, they should narrow their topic within that principle. Contestants can increase their chances of writing truly scholarly works if they concentrate on one or two aspects of a principle rather than every aspect of it.

“The essay competition is a great training ground for developing the tools of scholarly publication,” says Dr. Orenstein. “It will require a hypothesis, a methodology to review the historical evidence, an analysis of the findings and a commentary on the limitations and implications for the future.”

Laura Jordan, OMS III, winner of the 2013 history essay competition, advises this year’s contestants: “Find a topic that is exciting to you and immerse yourself in it, and identify a faculty mentor with a history of publications who can guide you through this process. Also, do not underestimate the amount of time it takes to research and write the essay. Start early so that you have time for thorough research and revisions.”

Profession’s dynamic history

The essay competition was launched in 2006 by the AOA Bureau of Osteopathic History and Identity (which was dissolved in 2012) with the belief “that in researching and writing about the social, economic and political challenges our DO forefathers faced and overcame, students and others would develop a deep and career-long connection to the osteopathic medical profession,” explains James E. Froelich, DO, the former chairman.

Essay writers should keep in mind the following passage from the preamble to the core principles: “Students will come to appreciate the history of the osteopathic medical profession from understanding the social, economic, cultural, political, and medical forces and contexts that have shaped the profession’s development. … It is not dry facts that students should be learning. Rather, they need to understand dynamic historical processes and grasp the living, breathing, evolving phenomenon that is osteopathic medicine.”

The preamble reinforces the AOA’s goal of fostering a greater sense among essayists of what it means to be DOs and a greater appreciation for why the profession should remain both distinct and united.

Peer-reviewed judging

This year’s entries will undergo peer-review judging by the AOA editor in chief, JAOA associate editors and JAOA Editorial Advisory Board members after the competition’s Aug. 4 deadline.

Depending on the quality and quantity of the entries, the AOA will award prizes to up to three authors. The winning authors will be honored during OMED 2014, which will be held Oct. 25-29 in Seattle.

Correction: This article has been updated to note that the essay contest is the ninth annual, not the eighth.

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