Bringing together the osteopathic family

Family-focused, dually boarded ophthalmologist is the AOA’s 2018-2019 president

AOA President William S. Mayo, DO, plans to focus on AOA board certification, membership and the osteopathic family over the next year.


Family is a major priority for incoming AOA President William S. Mayo, DO, who can’t stand going longer than three weeks without seeing his three grandchildren. The Mississippian and his wife have two sons and two daughter-in-laws and all live in Oxford.

Dr. Mayo’s connection to his osteopathic heritage is just as important to him. After completing an ophthalmology ACGME residency at the University of Mississippi, he fought to stay in the osteopathic family and obtain AOA board certification.

“It was important to me that I had approval from the osteopathic family for my residency because they’re my family and I wanted to be able to have my osteopathic certification,” Dr. Mayo says. “As they say in the South, ‘you dance with who brung ya.’”

Dr. Mayo’s goals for his presidency this year reflect the significant role family has played in his life and how he hopes to bring together the diverse DO population across the country:

  1. AOA board certification: Delivering board certification that is cost-effective, technologically advanced, relevant and that puts physicians at the forefront.
  2. Membership: Rebuilding AOA membership to offer benefits, services and support for DOs at every stage of their career.
  3. Osteopathic family: Bringing together DOs of diverse backgrounds to continue to cultivate the distinctive philosophy of medicine that they practice.

Below is an edited Q+A with Dr. Mayo.

Why did you choose to be a DO?

When I was applying to medical school, a family member connected me to a professor named Henry Pace, PhD, who had a connection with a medical school in Kansas City.

When Dr. Pace moved to Mississippi, DOs were not licensed in the state, and he became a strong advocate for osteopathic physicians getting full medical licensure. Dr. Pace took me to what is now the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences College of Osteopathic Medicine to interview with the school’s dean. My interview with him really demonstrated the osteopathic difference to me.

My mother died when I was 3 years old and my father died when I was 16 years old. Shortly after, I started college. I had not gone through the grieving process and I wasn’t focused on academics my first year because of it.

When the dean asked me why my grades were poor my first year of school, I told him my story, and he said it was understandable that it would take time to go through that type of trauma at such a young age. Just like in osteopathic care, he saw the whole person, and my whole story even at the very beginning.

Dr. Mayo saw the osteopathic difference during his medical school interview at what is now the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences College of Osteopathic Medicine.

[story-sidebar id=”214443″]

What was it like competing for a competitive ACGME ophthalmology residency slot in the 1980s as a DO?

When I applied for an ophthalmology residency in Mississippi, it was only seven years after DOs had received full practice rights in the state. My ophthalmology residency program had never had a DO before. There was one DO at the hospital who had preceded me. He was a family medicine physician.

When I applied, I believed in my heart that my education was equal to if not better than that of the other applicants I was competing against. I did an elective rotation where my residency program was, and the chief of the department assigned me to the chief resident for the two-week period. He had instructed the resident to figure out my education level, so he would ask me questions from across the medical spectrum—many things that were outside of ophthalmology.

At the end of the rotation, I was called into the chief of the department’s office and he let me know that out of the 140 people that had applied for four spots in his program, I could have one of them. It proved to me early on that osteopathic education is absolutely equal if not better.

What would you say to dispel the fears of some medical students of single GME accreditation affecting their chances to compete for residency slots?

My story should be reassuring. I competed at a time when only 5% of physicians were DOs, and there had not been a DO in my program before. Now 25% of all graduates are DOs and we are accepted everywhere.

In addition, with the single GME accreditation system, ACGME programs have sought osteopathic recognition. Sixteen percent of programs that have osteopathic recognition are programs that were historically only ACGME programs. It tells me that they recognize the value an osteopathic physician brings to a residency program, and that a DO is the kind of physician they want.

Dr. Mayo was the first DO to complete an ophthalmology residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Why did you become AOA and ABMS board certified and why was staying in the osteopathic family important to you?

When I graduated in 1981, not many DOs went into ACGME residencies. It was also not easy for DOs who had completed an ACGME residency to become AOA board certified.

Because I was on a U.S. Navy scholarship, I was able to have them assign me to the residency program so it would make me eligible to file for AOA approval of my program. I then had to meet all the metrics that were required for the AOA to approve my program and sit for their boards. I even flew an inspector to Mississippi with my own money to verify the competency of the program.

I wanted to have approval from the AOA for my residency. DOs are my family, so I wanted to have osteopathic certification.

When I finished residency, I took the ABMS board exam because it was a requirement of my program. The number of residents who passed the boards was a direct metric for that program to show competency. I also wanted to take them to prove to myself that I could do it.

Why choose AOA board certification?

The AOA boards are made for physicians by practicing physicians. These DOs are in the trenches every day and are aware of the current trends in medicine. The ABMS boards are made by physicians too, but not all of them are practicing physicians. The AOA is making board certification more user friendly, so it fits into physicians’ busy lives. The AOA boards also cater to the osteopathic philosophy of care.

What should DOs who have never joined the AOA know about the organization?

The AOA is the only organization that represents osteopathic physicians in every specialty and is actively working to raise the awareness of osteopathic medicine and advocate for the best interests of the profession at the state and national levels.

In the last 10 years, our profession has grown by 68%. Our profession is also growing younger. More than half of our DOs are under the age of 45.

Our younger physicians may not know the value of the osteopathic family to the same degree that I did years ago, but physicians face stresses in their lives and in their practices. You need family to fall back on in those times of stress. That’s why the AOA and the osteopathic family are there to support you.

Why did you choose ophthalmology?

During school, I did an otorhinolaryngology rotation, and I really enjoyed the microsurgery aspect involved. Later I did an ophthalmology rotation and realized that it combined microsurgery with the ability to have a continuous relationship with my patients similar to family medicine–you see grandma and grandbaby and everyone in between throughout their lives.

The eyes are only two, one-inch by one-inch spheres, but they are connected to so many parts of the body. When patients come in, I ask them about their hemoglobin A1c levels or their high blood pressure, because all of these things are connected to the eyes, so you need to use the whole-person approach to care.


  1. Robbie Sue Harrell

    We know you will be the best AOA president ever! Prayers for you and your family, as you do an awesome job representing this profession. Good luck!

Leave a comment Please see our comment policy