The osteopathic medical profession has reached a key milestone nearly two years into its five-year transition to a single graduate medical education accreditation system. More than half of AOA residency programs are now accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or have submitted applications, according to AOA President Boyd R. Buser, DO.
That progress is among the highlights of the past year, notes Dr. Buser, who shares key single GME accreditation system developments including a critical agreement reached in March to protect DO residents.
Pushing programs forward
The profession has seen great progress in the number of AOA residency programs transitioning to ACGME accreditation, Dr. Buser notes.
“Nearly all of our four-year-plus programs have applied, and by the end of this year, all of our three-year programs will have applied,” Dr. Buser says.
In 2017, the emphasis is on supporting three-year AOA residency programs as they continue or begin the application process.
Last year, the AOA launched a free Application Assistance Program to help guide residency programs through the transition.
“We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from people who have used the Application Assistance Program,” Dr. Buser says. “There is no cost to the program. The AOA provides this as a service to aid our residency programs.”
Programs call the AOA and are then triaged to an expert who can answer questions about forms, site visits and the financial aspects of transitioning to ACGME accreditation.
DO and MD programs look for osteopathic recognition
ACGME-accredited programs are also applying for osteopathic recognition, an official designation that demonstrates the program’s commitment to osteopathic training. There is no fee for the osteopathic recognition application. Dr. Buser stresses the importance of obtaining osteopathic recognition after achieving ACGME accreditation.
“Osteopathic recognition is the key to the future of osteopathic GME,” he says. “OGME will exist in the future as ACGME-accredited programs with the status of osteopathic recognition. It’s important to understand that obtaining osteopathic recognition is the final step for AOA programs, and the process is not difficult.”
Osteopathic GME is also what today’s DO students want, he notes.
“Surveys of our osteopathic medical students over the past two years say that nearly 70% would prefer to do their GME training in an ACGME program with osteopathic recognition,” he says. “It’s up to us to meet that demand.”
Many ACGME-only accredited programs understand that osteopathic recognition is a pathway to recruiting high-quality DO students, Dr. Buser notes: 16% of applications for osteopathic recognition have come not from AOA- or dually accredited programs, but from ACGME-only accredited programs.
“These programs believe it gives them a competitive advantage toward matching and recruiting the type of residents that they believe will be successful in their programs, and that’s our DO graduates,” Dr. Buser says.
ACGME supports DO residents
In March, the AOA, ACGME and AACOM reached an agreement designed to protect residents in AOA-accredited programs. The AOA is now permitted to extend accreditation for AOA residency programs beyond the June 30, 2020, transition deadline on a case-by-case basis.
This ensures that all residents will have the opportunity to complete an accredited residency program and be eligible for board certification. It will also assist residency programs that are working toward ACGME accreditation but may need additional time.
Since the transition started, students have been asking about this scenario—how residents in these programs would fare, Dr. Buser notes.
“From the beginning, we have consistently stated that we would make sure that no residents would be stranded at the end of the transition,” Dr. Buser says. “This agreement is a significant step forward to help students be confident that they will be able to complete an accredited program.”