Medical education

COCA has received a five-year renewal of recognition from the U.S. Department of Education

The AOA accreditation agency will continue to oversee educational requirements for the growing profession, including 37 Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine in 58 locations.

On Tuesday, the AOA released the following statement on the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to grant the AOA’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) with a five-year renewal of recognition:

The American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), which serves as the accrediting agency for Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, has received a five-year renewal of its recognition from the United States Department of Education. The COCA ensures that the highest medical education standards are implemented and maintained by osteopathic medical schools, and the Department’s renewal of the COCA’s federal recognition shows that the COCA complies fully with all federal accreditation regulations.

The decision to extend the COCA’s recognition for the maximum of five additional years matches the recommendation of Department staff after their analysis of the COCA’s accreditation policies and procedures and the recommendation of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity after their meeting in July 2021. The COCA was first recognized by the U.S. Commissioner of Education in 1952 and has maintained federal recognition since then.

“I would like to thank the entire osteopathic community for their excellent reputation and the high quality of their professional service that has made renewal of our federal recognition a straightforward decision,” said Jed Brinton, secretary to the COCA and vice president of accreditation at the American Osteopathic Association. “It is our honor to uphold the osteopathic medical tradition and to support the educational pursuits of the next generation of doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs).”

Overseeing the growth of osteopathic medical education

The COCA currently accredits 37 colleges of osteopathic medicine operating at 58 sites for the 2021-22 academic year. In the U.S. today, approximately one in four (26%) medical students attend an osteopathic medical school, with more than 7,000 graduates entering the physician workforce annually. This year, more than 33,000 osteopathic medical students will train in the U.S. to become osteopathic physicians. DOs and MDs are the only credentialed physicians who may practice in every state and specialty area in the U.S.

“Building on a proud 129-year history of providing distinctive, whole-person care, the osteopathic medical profession continues to expand to meet the health care needs of this country,” said Joseph Giaimo, DO, president of the American Osteopathic Association. “Our philosophy and education are attracting a growing number of the nation’s future physicians, and that is a direct outcome of the top-notch regulatory body overseeing our educational system.”

This past year, the number of osteopathic physicians in the U.S. climbed to nearly 135,000—an 80% increase from a decade ago. Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine have played a pivotal role in helping the house of medicine to grow to meet health care access issues, especially in underserved and rural communities. New osteopathic medical schools in California and Texas, as well as new campuses in Louisiana, New York, and Oklahoma, opened in 2020. An additional school in Provo, Utah, welcomed its first class for the 2021-22 academic year.

“Our accreditation body serves a vital role supporting the health of this nation,” said Dr. Giaimo. “Today we honor their nearly 70-year contribution to the profession and to our tremendous medical system.”

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