AOA in action

Advocacy wins buoy osteopathic physicians in Minnesota

Among other victories, new legislation grants DOs equal opportunity to serve on the state medical board and retake licensure exams.


DOs and MDs in the Land of 10,000 Lakes now have equal opportunity to serve on the state medical board, retake licensure exams and, for psychiatrists, practice as part of an assertive care community team. These legislative victories are the result of advocacy by the AOA, the Minnesota Osteopathic Medical Association and the American Osteopathic College of Neurologists and Psychiatrists (ACONP). Here’s a closer look at what’s different and what it means for DOs.

Equal chances

Following two years of osteopathic advocacy, Minnesota recently passed an update to the Minnesota Medical Practice Act bill that incorporates several changes:

Nick Schilligo
  • Greater DO representation: Minnesota DOs now have more opportunity to represent physicians by serving on the state medical board. Eleven physicians serve on the board; previously, only one could be a DO, but now there’s no cap on how many DOs may serve.
  • Osteopathic equivalency in licensure exams: “DOs taking the COMLEX-USA will now be afforded the same number of attempts to pass the licensure examination series as their MD counterparts,” explains Nick Schilligo, the AOA’s associate vice president of state government affairs.
  • Updated terminology: The bill now refers to “osteopathic physicians” and “osteopathic medicine” rather than “osteopaths” and “osteopathy.”

Joe Willett, DO, who serves on the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, lauds the legislation for allowing more osteopathic physicians to regulate the practice of medicine and protect the public. “In the past, we’ve sometimes had very qualified DOs who wanted to serve, but weren’t able to because the one DO slot was already taken,” he says. “Now if a DO wants to serve on the Minnesota State Medical Board, he or she has an equal chance.”

Ruth Martinez, the executive director of the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, says the board is also very pleased about the bill’s passage. “Minnesota recognizes the equivalent training and examination standards of osteopathic and allopathic physicians and advocates for a practice act that fairly and accurately reflects these equivalencies,” she says. “The board believes these changes provide the equal recognition in statute of MDs and DOs as is found in the health care delivery system across Minnesota and throughout the nation.”

Recognition of DO psychiatry certification

In a second advocacy victory in Minnesota, the state recently amended its Chemical and Mental Services Act to note that DOs certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry (AOBNP) meet the bill’s definition of psychiatrists.

Stephen M. Scheinthal, DO

The legislation, which deals with mental health services, lists certification requirements for psychiatrists who practice in an assertive community treatment team, a multidisciplinary team that provides comprehensive care for people with severe mental illness. The bill now states that physicians certified by AOBNP are eligible to serve on such a treatment team, as are those who are certified by the American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry.

Advocacy matters

“The victory in Minnesota exemplifies how critical AOA advocacy is today,” says Stephen M. Scheinthal, DO, president of the ACONP. “Without advocacy focused specifically on osteopathic issues, such as education, certification and osteopathic medical practice, the difference DOs make through the unique characteristics of the care they provide will be overlooked in the health care debate.”

Both pieces of legislation represent a big win for osteopathic physicians, says the AOA’s Schilligo. “Through our advocacy, Minnesota DOs now have rights that align with their equivalent education, training and competency demonstration standards,” he says. “The AOA looks forward to building on this success, and is finalizing model legislation this year that aims to provide universal osteopathic recognition nationwide. We look forward to partnering with our state osteopathic associations and advocating alongside AOA members to achieve success.”

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