Innovation and Research

To support innovation in osteopathic medicine, AOF raises $1.2 million

AOF’s fundraising achievement will support scholarships and grants for up-and-coming researchers.


Over the course of the last two years, more than $1.2 million in donated and pledged funds has been raised by the American Osteopathic Foundation (AOF). Events like its 2018 Honors Gala have contributed to an increase in funding.

“What we’re seeing is a renewed commitment to our values,” said Rita Forden, AOF’s chief executive officer. “We’re building on the great traditions that have always been here.”

With that funding,  AOF immediate past president Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, DO, who is also provost of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM), focused on advancing research in osteopathic medicine through grants for up-and-coming researchers.

Prioritizing research

The AOF/AOA New Investigator Award provides funding for research in: 1) osteopathic philosophy, 2) osteopathic manipulative medicine/osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMM/OMT), 3) chronic disease, 4) pain management, and 5) musculoskeletal injuries and prevention. During the 2018 Honors Gala, more than $100,000 was raised to establish funding for the grant. Beginning Sept. 1, 2019, the grant will provide up to $50,000 in research funding for DOs, MDs or PhDs conducting 18-month studies. Learn more and apply here.

In 2018, AOF provided grants, awards and scholarships to more than 100 individuals in support of their commitment to osteopathic medicine, a 40 percent increase from the previous year. AOF’s coveted Golden Ticket Scholarship is among those awards; it honors excellence in medical school achievement while also addressing the burden of student debt. AOF also offers awards to four runners-up.

“Each year, through the fundraising efforts of the AOF, we strive to grow in the number of awards, grants and scholarships,” said Forden.

Building awareness

Creating greater awareness of AOF’s efforts helps build relationships that transcend any one event, said Teresa Sanders, director of development for the foundation. “Individual donors are the lifeblood of the organization.” Sanders said. “We’re explaining to donors and potential donors how we plan to lead now and in the future.”

A great number of those individual donors were students, Sanders said. “It’s not the money that is so remarkable, but the fact that so many students see the field of osteopathic medicine, its leaders and its vision as a mission worth supporting.”

Industry recognition is one of five strategic priorities for the AOF, which also include education, research, service projects and international outreach. “We also brought in top talent, fresh perspectives, and leaders who are committed to the AOF and the principles of osteopathic medicine,” Forden said.

New leaders

On January 1, 2019, AOA Past President Martin Levine, DO, MPH, became president of the AOF. Dr. Levine is currently vice provost for graduate medical education at VCOM and has helped to start more than 160 residency positions at U.S. hospitals as a leader in osteopathic medicine for 35 years. Dr. Levine said the AOF’s strategic goals match his own priorities, including education, research and community outreach. “I’m excited to bring my passion for these important aims to an organization doing so much to advance them,” he said.

In addition to Dr. Levine, the AOF welcomes six new board members, including a student representative from the Student Osteopathic Medicine Association (SOMA). Together, they will provide strategic direction, influence and leadership to AOF. They include:

Scott Cyrus, DO, is associate professor and founding chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine at New Mexico State University.

J. Michael Finely, DO, is senior vice president for assessment at the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME) and previously served as associate dean of graduate and clinical medical education at Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (Western/COMP).

Steven J. Heithoff, DO, an orthopedic hand surgeon, is the past chair of the American Osteopathic Board of Orthopedic Surgery.

Jill M. Helenbrook, independent business consultant and strategist, formerly served as vice president, office of the CIO, for Walgreen’s Boots Alliance and vice president, treasury and securities services, for JP Morgan Chase New York.

Tanya Porter is the vice president of business development at Davita Medical Group (JSA Medical Group/Healthcare Partners) in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Renee Wakulski, OMS II, at Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine and national liaison officer for SOMA, will serve as the board’s newest student representative for a two-year period.

All other board members will serve a three-year term.

“Part of AOF’s new mission statement says that at the heart of every improbable discovery are passion, innovation, tenacity and an unending perseverance,” Forden says.

Find more information about AOF here.

For further reading:

Research grants available for DOs , medical students and PhDs

More than $1.3 million in funding awarded to osteopathic researchers

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