In its commitment to advocating for high-quality, equitable patient care, the AOA works with regulatory agencies to stop fraudulent practitioners and flag questionable credentialing and education programs.
After receiving a report from members who reside in Massachusetts, AOA investigators working with the Massachusetts Osteopathic Society recently found that James Bucciarelli, a licensed physical therapist assistant and licensed athletic trainer, misrepresented himself as “DO,” “DO-MP,” and “LATC” on multiple websites on which he advertised his services.
Bucciarelli also did not properly identify his qualifications or otherwise correct an investigator, posing as a prospective patient, who addressed him as “Dr. Bucciarelli.”
Misrepresentation continues despite agreement
In September, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Allied Health Professionals reached a consent decree with Bucciarelli, in which Bucciarelli agreed to stop using unearned credentials.
The action was prompted in part by evidence initially gathered by AOA, reported to the State of Massachusetts and subsequently investigated by the Massachusetts Board of Registration. Despite the consent decree, Bucciarelli’s multiple online profiles continue to list his credentials as “DO” and “DOMP.”
AOA has notified the Board of this breach.
Another problem: Diploma mills
“The AOA investigates and reports infractions when we learn of them, and we encourage licensing and regulatory agencies to remain vigilant against fraudulent health care providers. However, there is arguably a more pervasive and insidious problem of degree-mill schools offering the appearance of legitimacy as cover for practitioners with shoddy education and training,” said Josh Prober, JD, AOA general counsel.
Prober notes that osteopathic medicine is particularly vulnerable to bad-faith actors in education and practice. For example, the international use of the term DO is not uniform.
In the U.S., DO stands for Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and denotes a licensed physician, whereas abroad the initials can mean Diploma in Osteopathy, which may be equivalent to a four-year undergraduate degree or a certificate program.
Advent of DOMP
Further complicating the health care landscape for consumers is the advent of the term “diploma in osteopathic medicine-manual practitioner” or DOMP. This credential is neither awarded by any accredited American school nor does it result in any form of licensure in the U.S., Prober noted, yet some online schools are attempting to attract American students to programs in “manual osteopathic practice,” which is not a recognized profession.
These terms are ripe for exploitation to mislead both earnest prospective students and unsuspecting patients, leaving individuals to discern who and what is truly legitimate and guard themselves against the unauthorized practice of medicine.
Online schools, including the National University of Medical Sciences, allow students with a high school diploma or an equivalent to view recorded online lectures.
The coursework does not lead to licensure because none currently exists, although the schools’ marketing materials suggest that graduates will be able to open private practices.
“AOA’s legal team is working with regulatory authorities to prevent unaccredited diploma mills like the National University of Medical Sciences from preying on unsuspecting students, who may not understand that an American DO is a fully licensed physician with a four-year medical degree and thousands of hours of supervised clinical training,” Prober added. “This is an urgent, emerging issue because of the risk that the public will be misled.”