Advocacy win

American Board of Neurological Surgery apologizes to DOs it harassed

Osteopathic legal advocacy stops flurry of demands to AOA board-certified physicians.

After sending threatening emails to AOA board-certified neurosurgeons regarding their use of the term “board certified,” the American Board of Neurological Surgery (ABNS) is apologizing to those who received them, according to the AOA’s legal counsel.

The AOA intervened when members and the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons alerted General Counsel Josh Prober, JD, to the emails, which demanded that the member physicians stop using the term “board certified” because it “can be implied to represent board certification from the American Board of Neurological Surgery.”

The ABNS email further stated that “the situation will be elevated to our legal counsel for consideration of further action” if its demands were not met.

AOA board certification is widely recognized

“It was astonishing to see ABNS ignore the validity and existence of osteopathic certifying boards, despite the fact that AOA board certification is recognized by state and federal governments, hospitals, payers and the ACGME,” Prober says.

Regardless of the ABNS’s unsubstantiated assertion that the term “board certified” implies certification from a board affiliated with the American Board of Medical Specialties, there are multiple ways to be credibly board certified. The AOA offers board certification in 29 specialties and 77 subspecialties that are long-established credentials for osteopathic physicians.

“Numerous state statutes recognize the distinction between osteopathic and allopathic physicians and between AOA certification and ABMS board certification and also ensure their equal treatment,” Prober adds.

Some of the targeted physicians practice in California, where state statutes clearly specify equal treatment of DOs and MDs as well as AOA certification and ABMS certification, Prober notes.

Lawyers for ABNS admitted the board erred in sending its letter to AOA-certified physicians and apologized for its mistake. The board also agreed to send letters explaining its actions to DOs who received the offending ABNS notice.

‘Proud DO’

Kamran Parsa, DO, president of the NeuroSpine Institute in Palmdale, California, was among the AOA board-certified neurosurgeons targeted by ABNS.

“I have always been and will always be a proud DO. Today, even more so,” Dr. Parsa says. “My colleagues and I had incredible support from the AOA and ACOS and are grateful that the osteopathic community put a stop to this harassment from ABNS.”

AOA members with similar complaints are encouraged to call (888) 62-MYAOA or submit an issue online.

Related reading:

He resigned from residency. Then the HRSA fined him $1 million. Here’s what happened next.

4 recent scope of practice wins for DOs in Indiana, Hawaii and New Hampshire


  1. Vicki Scott

    The true way to identify DO and MD certification in any specialty is to compare their training and education. Are they identical? I have my doubts.
    E.V. Scott- retired R.N.

    1. Alan Lee Carpenter

      Fortunately the differences between MD and DO trading and competency are all but historical. Back in the 1960s the AMA toured all Osteopathic medical schools and found they were within the scope of MD schools. A historical stigma had been largely overcome but still persists in some pockets.

      I graduated from UC Berkeley CA and was awarded a full military scholarship to attend the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health sciences. I found the lectures and academic requirements to be tougher than Berkeley. We completed our education using the same medical books of MD schools except one text on osteopathy. I passed all tests after medical school taking MD licensing exams and I completed MD residencies in Internal medicine and Nuclear medicine. I became board certified taking the same exams as MDs.

      The AMA has established its standard of recognizing board certifications.

      As I am a white male I have never known prejudice until I heard of such standards.

      1. Georgeanne Freeman

        Well said and hello, fellow UOMHS alum! I am an Osteopathic ally board certified Family Medicine enjoying owning my own clinic in Austin, Texas. It is fun to utilize Osteopathic principles and practices as an option to opioids. It can be addicting but less likely to cause harm.

    2. Mark Bernhard, D.O.

      Here is a question for you to ponder Vicki. Since DO specialists, are like their fellow MD grads vetted and qualified for admission to MD residency training programs and train side by side with MDs how is it that when they finish, take the same board certifying exams, they engage in the same scope of practice with the same privileges? That is not to say that there are some physicians, be it DO or MD, whom you may have encountered in your career who have greater of lesser reputations regardless of the initials after their names. Sounds to me from your statement that you have a personal bias developed during your career.

    3. Bill Williams

      Well, I graduated from Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1991 and went on to do an MD Med/Peds Residency at East Tn State and and was boarded in Internal Medicine. No one asked “which Board” frankly I don’t think many actually cared. As for Quality differences, as a former Military trained PA, I worked beside docs who were of both varieties. Frankly unless I asked, there was no difference I could find.

  2. T. Patel

    Thank you so much for this article. I’m very disappointed to hear that there is discrimination against DOs that progressed to harassment. I think it’s also ignorance and an unwillingness to seek an understanding of the differences. The ABNS represented its physicians in its discrimination as well who likely didn’t know about the letters. I am thankful the AOA was able to provide support and a solution.

  3. George Mychaskiw II, DO

    Last of a dying breed. I suspect we won’t see too many more DO neurosurgeons under the single accreditation system. #unintendedconsequences

    1. EyeGuy

      Or AOA certified Orthopedic surgeons, radiologists etc… all of us are a dying breed due to the unintended consequences.

      Our boards are not universally recognized internationally…. our achilles heel.

  4. Wesley Lockhart

    Quite frankly, this is not at all surprising to me. And to think we are now going to compete with all MD’s and IMG’s for the same residency spots. I have been following the merger closely. Does any DO out there think that all of a sudden the MD’s are going to accept us after 140 years of trying to get rid of the entire DO profession? Also, why is a retired nurse on this thread?

  5. Joseph F Barakeh, DO, PhD

    ABNS simply wants to maintain a financial monopoly on lucrative board certification, as do all of the ABMS boards. Nice to see the AOA stand up to the mob.

  6. Samuel D. Small D.O., CCOM, Detroit Osteopathic Hospital, UCLA

    I am an AOBOS Certified Orthopedic and an ACGME Orthopedic Spine Fellowship trained Surgeon practicing in California, I am frequently disparaged by my M.D. colleagues, particularly the local Neurosurgeons. My community has no AOA Certified Neurosurgeons.
    The ABNS claim that their threats issued to individual AOA Neurosurgeons is disingenuous at best. It wasn’t a “mistake”, it was unconscionably deliberate! It was also prejudiced, conceited, entitled, illegal, immoral and just plain wrong.
    The only thing they are sorry about is that they have to apologize.
    I began AOA GME programs at my hospital now ACGME Accredited. I would challenge graduates of any ACGME GME program in the U.S.A. to be better than our Graduates.

  7. Kay D. Barney, DO

    Could you have misunderstood Miss Vicki. Maybe she was saying that our superior training that includes osteopathic principles makes us stand out when compared to allopathic physicians. It does seem to improve our diagnostic and treatment abilities. She was probably misunderstood, probably praising our overall superior performances.

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