Karen J. Nichols, DO, moves on from MWU/CCOM to focus on promoting osteopathic medicine

The first female president of the AOA aims to help build osteopathic medicine’s influence within the larger world of organized medicine.

After a 16-year tenure as dean of Midwestern University/Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (MWU/CCOM), AOA Past President Karen J. Nichols, DO, is moving on in order to devote more time to serving in other leadership positions in medicine.

“The osteopathic profession is in a pivotal time of significant transition,” Dr. Nichols says. “I’m engaged in positions of influence at the ACGME [Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education], including the executive committee and the governance committee, which benefit the osteopathic profession.”

Dr. Nichols also serves in leadership roles within the AOA and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. In these positions, Dr. Nichols aims to help build osteopathic medicine’s influence within the larger world of organized medicine.

“Ten years ago, who would have thought the osteopathic profession would have such a status in the ‘house of medicine,’” Dr. Nichols says. “Together, so many osteopathic physicians are working on behalf of our beloved profession. It’s an honor to be part of this team!”

Karen Nichols, DO


Before serving as MWU/CCOM dean, Dr. Nichols was assistant dean of post doctoral education at Midwestern University/Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine in Glendale. Her departure from MWU will mark a new start for Dr. Nichols, who has been known as a trailblazer for women in osteopathic medicine.

Dr. Nichols was featured in the recent PBS documentary, The Feminine Touch, which covers the history of women in osteopathic medicine and won a regional Emmy award. The documentary also highlights prominent female leaders in the osteopathic medical profession.

In the documentary, Dr. Nichols spoke of growing up as a young girl on a dairy farm in northern Indiana. During that time, she said, she thought she was destined to be a farmer’s wife, as she didn’t have a physician role model to look up to.

Many firsts

Later, Dr. Nichols served as a female physician mentor to many women as she broke glass ceilings. She was the first female president of the AOA, from 2010-2011. She was also the first woman to lead the Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association and the first to lead the American College of Osteopathic Internists.

Dr. Nichols was awarded AOA’s Distinguished Service Certificate for her leadership in osteopathic medicine in 2015. Within the AOA, she also served as founding chair of the organization’s End of Life Care committee, and currently serves on the AOA President’s Advisory Council.

Dr. Nichols is also board certified in internal medicine. Prior to academic medicine, Dr. Nichols practiced internal medicine and geriatrics for 17 years at Mesa General Hospital in Arizona.

She is a graduate of Kansas City University College of Osteopathic Medicine (KCU-COM) and holds an honorary doctorate of humane letters from KCU-COM.


  1. Congratulations to this exceptional physician. She is a terrific role model and wonderful human being.

    Incidentally, Mesa General was located in Mesa, AZ, not Flagstaff.

  2. I wish to commend Dr. Nichols on her achievements as the first woman in many areas of osteopathic medicine. I was one of the first 113 DOs drafted into the military in 1967. I am board-certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Radiology and the American Board of Radiology I know what it means to be first in different areas
    as a DO.

  3. I was lucky enough to spend a month on rotation with Dr. Nichols as a medical student back in 1989. I remember vividly her interaction with patients and marveled at her ability to be both a respected academician and a caring physician. This was one of those experiences that had a strong impact on my own practice of medicine.
    I am excited to see Dr. Nichols in her new role in leadership. I can’t think of anyone more qualified to represent Osteopathic Medicine. Congratulations.

  4. There is probably no one in our profession better qualified than Dr. Nichol’s to serve as a leading force in aiding osteopathic medicine in maintaining and advancing its position in the rapidly changing structure of health care delivery. We will all gain from her knowledge, experience and dedication.

  5. From the day she first appeared on the floor for her internship in internal medicine Karen has excelled in everything she has attempted. Congratulations Karen! Please keep up your great work!

  6. Dr. Karen Nichols: May 25, 2018
    Would it be useful to you if I sent you a brief out-
    line of a Scientific Method that works with somatic dysfunctions, Including non-traumatic induction of thoracic and cervical S.D.s while treating the whole patient. The methodology also treats P.T.S.D. without drugs or surgery. This method has not been published in JAOA.

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