Drive down the main street of Pikeville, Kentucky, a quiet valley town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, and the most prominent structure you’ll see is the Coal Building, which houses the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (KYCOM) at the University of Pikeville. From the highest floors, students enjoy sprawling views of the rural area many of them will one day serve as physicians.
The Coal Building is a signature achievement of KYCOM Dean Boyd R. Buser, DO, who joined the medical school in 2007. It has allowed the 20-year-old medical school to admit more students, furthering its mission of “bringing medicine to the mountains.”
The school has a proven track record of training physicians who continue to practice in the area—30% of the school’s graduates now practice within 75 miles of Pikeville.
Before helming KYCOM, Dr. Buser, the AOA’s 2016-17 president, spent 21 years in various leadership positions at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine, including chair of the osteopathic manipulative medicine department and interim dean. He has also played an instrumental role in leading the profession through the transition to a single graduate medical education accreditation system. Dr. Buser’s colleagues say his expertise—in education and other fields—makes him an ideal candidate to lead the AOA into the future.
A versatile leader
“Dr. Buser is so well-regarded in the profession because of all the hats he has worn with distinction and integrity,” says Karen J. Nichols, DO, the AOA’s 2010-2011 president. “He’s been in clinical practice. He has been in academia for 30 years. He has served as chair of the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners. He has been a prime mover and shaker on the American Medical Association’s CPT Editorial Panel and Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC), advocating for fair physician payment.”
While many of the profession’s leaders deserve credit for helping oversee the AOA’s transition to a single GME accreditation system, Dr. Buser has been “the longest continuous thread” throughout the endeavor, says Norman Vinn, DO, the AOA’s 2013-14 president.
From the very beginning, Dr. Buser acted as a skilled negotiator and interpreter, leading discussions with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and explaining the nuances of the transition to AOA stakeholders, he notes.
“Dr. Buser is going to be president at nearly the midpoint of the transition process, when a whole new crop of challenges are going to emerge,” Dr. Vinn says. “He’s very well-suited to move us forward in a positive direction because he knows so much about the history and strategic basis of the single accreditation system.”
Dr. Buser is interested in moving the needle on medical education in other areas, too. From 2011-2013, he served as co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) for the Advancement of Osteopathic Medical Education.
“On the BRC, Dr. Buser really stressed that any recommendations we made needed to be rooted in osteopathic principles and practices (OPP),” says Stephen Shannon, DO, MPH, the president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. “He was really good at connecting the dots between innovating education and staying true to the traditions of the profession.”
Back at KYCOM, Dr. Buser has updated the clinical curriculum as well as the physical facilities where students train. One area of prime focus has been OPP. “How DOs use their hands is one of the most distinct aspects of our profession, so it’s important for students to develop that sense of touch,” he says.
Dr. Buser has long served as one of the profession’s strongest advocates for osteopathic manipulative medicine, pushing for increased training and a low student-to-trainer ratio in OMM labs at KYCOM. “We can gather so much information and impart so much empathy to our patients through touch,” he says. “It’s incredibly powerful.”