And the award goes to …

AOA honors leaders and groups for advancing the osteopathic profession

Awards honor osteopathic physicians, medical students and affiliate organizations for contributions during the past year.


Each year, the osteopathic medical profession joins to celebrate all of the inspiring and influential work being contributed by DOs, medical students and affiliate organizations across every facet of the health care community and beyond. Following is a list of this year’s award winners and a short description of their work.

DOCARE Ernest A. Allaby Founder’s Award

This award recognizes recipients who have demonstrated commitment to serving medically underserved populations through participation in DOCARE outreach. This year’s award posthumously honors the life and legacy of DOCARE supporter Donald E. Jarnagin, OD, who passed away in March 2019 while doing what he loved, treating patients on a medical mission trip in Guatemala.

During his career as an optometrist and educator, Dr. Jarnagin served as dean of the Arizona College of Optometry at Midwestern University from 2011 until his retirement in 2016, having held previous positions as a clinical faculty member and interim dean.

Dr. Jarnagin embarked on his first DOCARE trip to Guatemala in 2007 and participated almost annually from that point on, providing eye care and thousands of pairs of donated glasses to patients in need.

Shining STARs

The Strategic Team Award and Recognition, known as “STAR,” recognizes contributions made by state, specialty and regional affiliates; osteopathic medical schools; OPTIs; and nonpractice affiliates that enhance the AOA’s strategic plan and advance the osteopathic medical profession. Award recipients are:

  • American Osteopathic Board of Family Physicians, for developing and launching the AOBFP Early Entry Initial Certification program in fall 2019. The program allows physicians to complete requirements for AOBFP initial board certification while still completing residency training.
  • The New York Institute of Technology Center for Global Health, for playing a pivotal role in raising international awareness about osteopathic training and practice by engaging students in global health research.The center offers a certificate in global health as a component of the DO elective curriculum, hosts monthly global health grand rounds, highlights the work of DOs at national and international conferences, and incorporates global health curriculum into foundation courses.
  • Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons (MAOPS), for developing the Wetzel Fellow Program, which fosters osteopathic leadership at the state level. Program participants are given the opportunity to attend the AOA House of Delegates and LEAD meetings, laying the groundwork for them to stay engaged in organized medicine throughout their careers. This year, the program graduated its first three fellows, who are currently mentoring younger scholars and postgraduates.
  • Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA), for its ongoing partnership with the AOA to support and promote the interests of osteopathic medical students through advocacy, education and leadership. SOMA plays a critical role in engaging students within the larger osteopathic community.Notable activities during the past year include collaborating with the AOA’s Osteopathic Advocacy Network to advance policy focused on student loan forgiveness, exploring partnerships to increase opportunities for DOs to practice internationally, and developing medical student-focused OMED programming.

George W. Northup, DO, Medical Writing award

The Northup Award, bestowed annually to an article published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA) the previous year, recognizes contributions to the JAOA that change the way DOs practice medicine and conduct research. Northup Award nominees are rated on the basis of clinical significance, scientific validity and content specific to osteopathic medicine.

The 2019 award recognizes the article “Empathy in Medicine National Norms for the Jefferson Scale of Empathy: A Nationwide Project in Osteopathic Medical Education and Empathy (POMEE),” which appeared in the August 2019 issue of the JAOA. The study was authored by Mohammadreza Hojat, PhD, Stephen C. Shannon, DO, Jennifer DeSantis, MEd, Mark R. Speicher, PhD, Lynn Bragan and Leonard H. Calabrese, DO.

The study developed national norms for assessment of osteopathic medical students’ empathy scores on the Jefferson Scale of Empathy at all levels of osteopathic medical school education. Study findings can be used for the assessment of students’ individual scores on the Jefferson Scale, as well as provide a supplementary measure for admissions to medical school and postgraduate medical education programs.

COVID-19 Initiative awards

A new awards category, these awards honor those in the profession who have been tirelessly serving patients on the front lines of the pandemic or providing much-needed assistance in other ways. Within this category, there are four awards to recognize an organization, physician in practice, resident and student. Award recipients include:

  • Organization: Maine COVID Sitters, a group of five University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine students who came together at the start of the pandemic to provide free child care, pet care and household services to assist workers on the frontlines.In a matter of weeks, more than 65 students joined the effort, representing disciplines including osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, occupational therapy and dental medicine.
  • Student: Zach Mitchell, OMS I, who traveled to New York City during the peak of the pandemic, volunteering to run 911 calls in the Bronx, one of the hardest-hit areas of the city. One of the first to arrive and the last to leave, Zach was a constant, unwavering force, his nominator said.
  • Resident: Sarah Mitchell, DO, who was completing the fourth year of her emergency medicine residency training in two New York City hospitals when the COVID-19 pandemic hit peak crisis levels.Likening the atmosphere of her city in the grips of the pandemic to a war zone, Dr. Murphy navigated empty streets and deserted subways each day to be jolted into reality by an ER overflowing with gravely ill patients, many of whom presented with symptoms of severe respiratory distress.

    “The situation is grim, but there is a light,” Dr. Murphy said during an interview with Kansas City University about her experience, adding “I am constantly blown away by the camaraderie, dedication, selflessness and support of those I am privileged to work side-by-side with every day.”

  • Physician in practice: Martin McElya, DO, for his tireless efforts to provide COVID testing and treatment to patients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.As a solo family physician at Neighborhood Medical Center, Dr. McElya took swift action to develop a COVID-19 testing strategy for his practice when the virus first began to garner attention in the global health community.

    Since then, he has administered COVID-19 testing to more than 14,000 patients, including 7,500 lacking insurance. Often keeping his office open seven days a week and seeing up to 200 patients per day, Dr. McElya set up a “Car Doc” drive-through testing service and expanded telehealth care to serve patients during the pandemic.

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