House of Delegates

AOA President Mark A. Baker, DO: ‘We need to embrace opportunities and changes’

Dr. Baker, the AOA’s 121st president, urged unity, engagement and improved communication in his inauguration speech.


For 2017-2018 AOA President Mark A. Baker, DO, becoming a DO was something he was born to do, literally.

In his inaugural speech as AOA president, Dr. Baker shared the story of his family—three generations of osteopathic physicians—and his birth at Still Osteopathic Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. “You could say I was born into the profession … and never left!” he said.

Dr. Baker’s father, William Frank Baker, DO, graduated from the Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1950, then completed an internship across the street at Still Hospital. Dr. Baker’s daughter, Carrie Baker, DO, graduated from Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Virginia Campus and is now working with a pediatric urgent care group in Oklahoma City.

The DO family

Family was an overarching theme of Dr. Baker’s speech. He emphasized the role of a bigger family—the osteopathic professional family—that has faced down many obstacles in the past, yet prevailed.

“Throughout its history, our profession has addressed many challenges—and not only survived but prospered,” said Dr. Baker. “We need to embrace the opportunities and changes before us and ensure our future prosperity.”

In order to prosper, Dr. Baker highlighted three areas he will focus on this year as president:

  • Improving the AOA’s relationship with affiliate organizations,
  • Engaging the youth of the osteopathic profession, and
  • Promoting unity within the osteopathic family.

With over 130,000 active DOs and osteopathic medical students, the profession is on a clear growth trajectory, which means more chairs at the table, Dr. Baker said. The future of the profession includes the opportunity for MDs to join that table by becoming AOA board certified.

“But let’s be perfectly clear. They are joining us,” said Dr. Baker. “We are not changing to become them. Our mission continues to be to advance the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine.”

The challenges facing osteopathic and health care landscapes are also a catalyst for the AOA to strengthen its alignment with affiliates, both state and specialty societies, Dr. Baker said. The osteopathic medical profession must ensure that all of the family, including affiliate organizations, “are healthy, and that everyone has a shared strategic vision of our future,” Dr. Baker said.

As osteopathic residency and fellowship programs transition to a single graduate medical education accreditation system, it is critical that they apply for and obtain osteopathic recognition, said Dr. Baker, who will also be focused on optimizing osteopathic board certification over the next year.

“We must talk to educators and students about the value of osteopathic board certification and the assessment of our osteopathic competencies in a physician-friendly format that is convenient and cost-effective,” he said.

The association must also engage its youngest members and encourage them to contribute their energy and voices to discussions on the future of the profession, Dr. Baker noted.

None of these goals for the coming year and beyond can come to fruition without unity.

“We must all work together to increase the level of trust and respect that we have for each other’s contributions to the profession,” said Dr. Baker. “It’s OK to disagree, but let’s be constructive and work together. Because at the end of the day, we are a family.”

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