Professional development

ABMS-certified DOs now offered exam-free pathway to AOA board certification

DOs who hold ABMS certification can now easily obtain AOA board certification without taking a high-stakes initial certification exam or paying initial certification fees.

Osteopathic physicians (DOs) certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) can now receive reciprocal certification from the AOA’s Certifying Board Services.

This opportunity is available to all DOs certified by an ABMS member board prior on or before Nov. 21, 2020, and will not require physicians to take their corresponding AOA specialty or subspecialty board’s initial certification exam or pay initial certification fees.

The new pathway is designed to provide increased options and inclusivity for ABMS-certified osteopathic physicians, says AOA CEO Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD. “It’s time to bring our DOs home,” he says. “The AOA of today is not the same as the past.”

With the goal of removing previous barriers to AOA certification for ABMS-certified DOs, the new option eliminates the burden of high-stakes initial certification exams and associated fees. “You’ve already done that. We don’t expect you to do it again,” Dr. Klauer explains. “We want you, not your money.”

The application fee for reciprocal certification is $0 for AOA members and $299 for non-members. To maintain AOA Board Certification, DOs will be required to meet their specialty/subspecialty board’s requirements for Osteopathic Continuous Certification (OCC). These requirements will vary by specialty/subspecialty board; visit the AOA Board Certification website for more details on OCC requirements.

Breaking barriers

Extension of ABMS reciprocity holds special significance for Dr. Klauer, who was ineligible for AOA Board Certification in the 1990s due to a processing error that prevented him from participating in the AOA match. As a result, he completed an ACGME training program and was not eligible to sit for osteopathic boards.

Many years later, eligibility for AOA certification was opened to ACGME-trained DOs, but the process involved duplicative fees and exams that were considered onerous by many physicians. “It’s time we not only welcome DOs home, but bring down the barriers,” Dr. Klauer says. “Let’s fix what was broken for years.”

In addition to making AOA certification more accessible, reducing barriers will lead to more open lines of communication within the profession, says AOA President Thomas Ely, DO. “The osteopathic community should and needs to be inclusive, not exclusive,” he says. “We want every DO to be a part of the osteopathic professional community, including AOA board certification. This is a big step in service of that goal.”

New and improved

In recent years, AOA leadership has reimagined AOA board certification to make it more relevant to the practicing physician, says Raymond Depa, DO, chair of the Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists.

“As we’ve made improvements to AOA board certification, we have prioritized adding convenience and flexibility so it fits more seamlessly into diplomates’ lives,” he says.

For example, five boards—internal medicine, emergency medicine, anesthesiology, radiology and OB-GYN—recently transitioned away from requiring high-stakes in-person recertification exams to offer a series of less-intense online exams that can be completed from the home or office, Dr. Depa notes. All boards are in the process of planning or implementing similar programs, he says.

To learn more about ABMS reciprocity and submit an application, visit the AOA Board Certification website.

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  1. John V. Barson, DO, MPH, FAsMA, IAASM Acad.

    This is about 35 years too late for me. As a US Army Physician I completed my Aerospace Medicine Residency in 1983, well before the DO’s had a Board Certification process for that specialty. I certified through the ABPM. My ABPM certification is permanent and I do not have to recertify. The problem that I and the other 3 DOs in the program encountered was with just getting our residency approved by the AOA. We contacted the AOA and were told that an onsite inspection had to be done of our USAF program and that we had to pay for that inspection. We initially decided to do that and split the cost between the 4 of us. The AOA told us that because there were 4 of us they would have to send 4 inspection teams consisting of 3 DOs each to do the inspections. Myself and one of my fellow residents refused to do this and so our residency was not improved. Of note is that at that time the DOs had almost no one who had completed an Aerospace Medicine Residency so the DOs they were going to send had absolutely no experience in Aerospace Medicine and were looking for a free vacation in San Antonio, TX where Brooks AFB and the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine were located. I pretty much lost all respect for the DO Board Certification Process at that time and eventually quit the AOA because of this experience. When the AOA finally did develop a Aerospace Medicine Specialty Process I saw no advantage to my profession career and would have to take additional testing and pay fees.

  2. Charles Choi

    I appreciate the AOA providing an easier path. However, I see no benefit to changing unless the certification becomes lifelong. These yearly and bi-yearly exams are onerous. I rather take the 10 year exam once versus several over the years. My suggestion to make life easier, for our already busy physician life,! is to provide cme without any penalties to keep up with our certification. Again, there is no incentive to change.

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