Physician and assistant professor Ernest Gelb, DO, installed as AOA’s 126th president

Dr. Gelb will serve as the president of the AOA for the 2022-2023 term.


Ernest R. Gelb, DO, of Lewes, Delaware, is an AOA board-certified osteopathic family physician. He became a fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians in 2001, joined the AOA’s Board of Trustees in 2011 and will now serve as the president of the AOA for the 2022-2023 term.

Dr. Gelb is an assistant professor of family medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association (POMA). After receiving his osteopathic medical degree from PCOM in 1978, Dr. Gelb completed his postgraduate medical training at Botsford General Hospital in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He also served in the United States Public Health Service from 1979 to 1981. Dr. Gelb is a 2010 recipient of the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Family Physicians Society’s Family Physician of the Year Award and in 2008 was honored with a Distinguished Service Award from POMA.

Dr. Gelb loves interacting with students, residents and physicians directly. In this interview, Dr. Gelb shares his vision and mission for the AOA and his high expectations for our profession.

Why did you choose osteopathic medicine?

It would be more accurate to say that osteopathic medicine chose me. I had an advisor during undergrad who was very forthcoming and helpful, and they introduced me to osteopathic medicine. The more I read about it and looked into it, the more it connected with me. Because I had always wanted to become a primary care physician in a rural area, the final magnet for me was learning that greater than 50% of osteopathic medical graduates go into primary care specialties. I ultimately had the choice to go to an MD or a DO program, and I am so glad I chose DO.

Ernest R. Gelb, DO, will serve as the president of the AOA for the 2022-2023 term.

What was your training like?

I completed medical school at Pennsylvania College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) in 1978. I then completed a one-year rotating internship at Botsford General Hospital in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and immediately began practice through the Public Health Service in a medically underserved area. I was a member of the Rural Health Corporation of North-Eastern Pennsylvania, and worked in a small town 20 miles from the nearest hospital. I had to navigate the difficulties of scope of practice and privilege issues as the first DO in the area, but ultimately had an excellent and formative early career experience caring for the people of rural Pennsylvania.

How has your background as an osteopathic family physician prepared you to lead this organization?

More than my background as a family physician, lifelong opportunities to lead and serve have prepared me to assume this role. Learning leadership begins very early in your life. I held leadership positions in my premed chapter in undergrad and was vice president of the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) throughout medical school.

I took these rules very seriously and worked to leave the organizations better than before I joined them. After graduating from medical school, I continued my involvement in specialty organizations and the AOA and always accepted opportunities to lead and serve as they came.

What have you been the proudest of accomplishing throughout your career?

A personal accomplishment that I will share is that I was able to deliver my youngest son. That was very special to me. Professionally, my teaching experience is something I am very proud of. I spent much of my clinical career teaching students and residents.

While teaching for PCOM at Sullivan County Medical Center, we had six to seven senior medical students actually live at the facility for their rotations. Because it was such a small town and a small hospital, the students got to do everything from lab work to X-rays to minor procedures. It was an absolute joy to precept those formative experiences and I cherish the relationships I made during that time.

I then assumed a teaching position for a family medicine residency program in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, where I was an attending physician for eight family medicine residents. It was a wonderful experience to teach these early-career physicians how to think about clinical problems.

What are some areas of focus for you and the AOA in the coming year?

This is a complex question, as there are a lot of issues on the AOA’s agenda right now, all of which are greatly important, so I will only address two pressing issues.

During the past couple of years, the AOA has continuously improved AOA Board Certification to increase accessibility and offer convenience for certification candidates and diplomates. Our goal has always been to establish AOA Board Certification as the certification of choice for all osteopathic physicians. Even if you were initially certified by ABMS, you can still come home to your osteopathic profession through our reciprocal certification program.

Additionally, graduate medical education and the Match are important issues on my agenda. Although 99% of GME-seeking DO graduates were placed in residency positions in 2021 and 2020, my heart aches for those few who do not match. The AOA is exploring every possible avenue to achieve a 100% residency placement rate for our students.

Looking forward, how will you define success after your period of service is over?

Success at the time I am done with my tenure would be for AOA membership to be strong and continually growing both in number and in diversity.

The incoming generation of osteopathic medical residents and students amaze me. Many of them have ancillary degrees, and they are bright, ambitious, and have the collective potential to make a major positive impact in our society. There is strength in numbers, and we need all current and new members of our profession to be participating and contributing members of the AOA so that we can maximize our impact.

Which of the AOA’s advocacy efforts is most important to you and why?

Scope of practice issues and truth of advertising problems come to mind. There are several organizations of nonphysician clinicians currently advocating for misrepresentative name changes and beyond scope-of-practice privilege expansion. While certainly valuable and important to the health care team, non-physician providers do not have the background and training that physicians do, and we must advocate for patient safety and appropriate practice boundaries at every turn.

Serving as president of a medical society takes a lot of time with meetings, speaking engagements, and travel. How will you manage your AOA work and the time you dedicate to your practice and teaching?

All of my professional time over the next year will be dedicated to my position as president of the AOA and its members.

What do you envision for the future of the osteopathic profession?

The future of the osteopathic profession is bright. The incoming generation of osteopathic physicians and students are smart and articulate, they love to advocate and they are well-equipped to carry our profession into the future. I love that we are seeing younger representation on the board of the AOA and across our bureaus, councils and committees. The young physicians in practice are doing a marvelous job and they do not put up with discrimination or differential treatment. I am excited about to watch them grow in their careers and leadership roles.                                        

What advice do you have for osteopathic medical students and early-career osteopathic physicians?

In the spirit of my country upbringing, “dance with who brung you.”

Take DO boards and certifications. Support osteopathic continuing medical education programs. Mentor younger osteopathic students and doctors. Contribute and give back to the osteopathic profession and continue to build it up. I have strived to do this throughout my career, and it has been very fulfilling.

What are you most looking forward to in the next year while taking on this role?

I am most looking forward to traveling and meeting individuals throughout all states and individual specialty societies. I feel their energy and I love that they are so pumped about the profession. I love sitting down with people and learning about their struggles and their hopes for the future of osteopathic medicine. I want them to know that I am rooting for them and advocating for them at every turn.

Outside of work, what do you like to do for fun?

Late in my career, I decided to get my pilot’s license and instrument rating. I love to fly and that has been a great hobby and a challenging learning experience that I have truly enjoyed. I also look forward to spending more time with family and to travel a bit with them. In reality, it’s all about family.


  1. Chris Olson, D.O.

    Congratulations Ernie! I know you will serve the profession well. Please let me know when you might visit NewHampshire or the Boston area.

  2. John S.Stevens, Jr., D.O.FACOOG (dist.)

    Congratulations, Ernie. Accolades well earned and you are an excellent role model for young students and osteopathic physicians. Best wishes!

  3. Samuel T. (Tim) Coleridge, DO

    Right on target; love your devotion to mentoring our students, residents and practicing physicians with whom you work and interface in the AOA. Confident in your success in making the Osteopathic family stronger and happier.

  4. George Yurko,DO

    Dr Gelb: Congratulations on AOA president and know I am proud to have had you for a colleague at Rural Health.

  5. James W. Fitzpatrick D.O.

    Congratulations Ernie:
    Enjoyed a bit of nostalgia with your relating experience in Laporte.
    We learned a lot in those early days.
    Looking forward to your tenure.
    I’m sure it will productive and rewarding.
    Fitz ’79

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