Medical education

FAQ: The single GME 5-year transition concludes on June 30

Here’s what you need to know about residency programs, Osteopathic Recognition and board certification.

After five years, the transition to a single graduate medical education (GME) accreditation system will come to a close on June 30. This means DO graduates will enter into residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), predominately through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). 

“Under the single GME system, DOs will be eligible to enter all ACGME-accredited residency and fellowship programs,” says Maura Biszewski, AOA vice president of graduate medical education. “Through Osteopathic Recognition, they will also have the opportunity to continue training in osteopathic principles and practice and enhance their residency experience.”

The transition has brought many changes, but some things will stay the same. Here are the answers to many of the common questions we are receiving.

What is Osteopathic Recognition?

Osteopathic Recognition is an ACGME designation given to residency and fellowship programs that meet training requirements which focus on osteopathic principles and practice. Currently, 227 programs have obtained Osteopathic Recognition; of these, 35 programs—15%—were ACGME programs that were not previously AOA-approved programs. 

“We’re seeing a healthy number of longstanding ACGME programs choose Osteopathic Recognition because they want to attract DO applicants,” Biszewski says.

Programs applying for Osteopathic Recognition can receive assistance from the AOA through its application assistance program. Email singleGME@osteopathic.org for more information.

How can I find residency programs with Osteopathic Recognition?

 This ACGME search tool allows applicants to find programs with Osteopathic Recognition. Students can also use filters in NRMP’s R3 ranking and match results system to view programs with Osteopathic Recognition when putting together their rank order list.

Where can residency applicants find programs that have transitioned from AOA to ACGME accreditation?

The AOA has a list of programs that have successfully transitioned from AOA to ACGME accreditation. Nearly 90% of the original AOA training positions are now ACGME-accredited.

In eight specialties, all previously AOA-accredited programs that applied for ACGME accreditation have received it. These specialties include neurology, NMM/OMM, OB-GYN, ophthalmology, pediatrics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, radiology and urological surgery.

You can find the accreditation status of programs that are in the process of becoming ACGME-accredited here.

How are DOs faring when it comes to matching into residency in the single GME system?

Last year, 98.48% of spring DO graduates seeking GME were placed into accredited programs, according to AACOM. Many of these programs were in competitive specialties.

“Today, one in four U.S. medical students is enrolled in a COCA-accredited osteopathic medical school,” Biszewski says. “The single GME system has significantly raised awareness of osteopathic medicine in the residency world. Program directors are more aware than ever of DOs’ whole-person approach to medicine and what it can bring to their program.” 

Are DOs who complete ACGME residencies eligible for AOA board certification?

 Yes, absolutely. AOA board certification is being simplified and innovated. Designed by DOs for DOs, AOA board certification is available for 27 primary specialties and 49 subspecialties. The AOA’s Department of Certifying Board Services is under new leadership, confirming our ongoing commitment to AOA board certification.

“AOA Certifying Board Services continues to leverage technology to modernize and advance quality administration of all our examinations,” says Genie James, AOA senior vice president of Certifying Board Services. “As a professional association and department, we are committed to enhancing convenience and the user experience for all osteopathic practicing physicians with a clear focus on the evolving needs of the next generations of DOs.”

For instance, two certifying boards—family physicians and internal medicine—are now offering early entry exam pathways for third-year residents. Since 2018, four AOA certifying boards—anesthesiology, emergency medicine, obstetrics-gynecology and radiology—have replaced their high-stakes in-person recertification exams with shorter online exams to be taken at more frequent intervals.

ACGME’s Common Program Requirements state that AOA board certification is an acceptable credential for ACGME program directors and faculty. All program directors are also required to provide DO applicants and residents with information about AOA board certification.

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