Bridging the gaps

Breaking DOwn barriers through advocacy

Some pathology residency programs were requiring minimum COMLEX-USA scores with percentiles dramatically higher than those for USMLE. That has changed, thanks to intervention and advocacy.


While I was researching residency programs in pathology, I noticed many required minimum COMLEX-USA scores with percentiles dramatically higher than those of the minimum requirements for USMLE. I shared this on Twitter, and the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME) quickly responded to learn more about what I was seeing. At the outset, I was surprised to hear from them, but through our joint efforts, I learned that advocacy really does work.

I passed along what I saw to the NBOME, and they took the information and reached out directly to programs to find out exactly what was happening. I learned program leaders were often surprised to hear that the information reported on their website or other online sources contradicted their actual policies. These conversations were met with enthusiasm, engagement and best of all, a willingness to better understand the credentials of osteopathic applicants.

In some circumstances, programs had believed the minimum scores for USMLE and COMLEX-USA were comparable. After learning they were not, they changed their score requirements so the cut-offs were similar percentiles.

Knowing that licensure scores can play a major role in filtering candidates, this was a huge win and really made me feel like I was actually making an impact. It’s more important than ever to stand up for the holistic review of applicants for all residency programs. So many DO students have gone through medical school hearing and reading about programs and specialties that are “DO friendly” and “not DO friendly,” and I want that to change. Throughout my conversations with NBOME, I was consistently communicated with, updated, and got to see the results of my efforts.

The NBOME, AOA and American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) work to provide education and understanding of the COMLEX-USA examination series, as well as the distinctive way that DO students are educated, trained and practice. I’m seeing firsthand how NBOME works to take down potential barriers for DO students who want to match to certain programs and how students can turn to and rely on these organizations to advocate for fairness.

Because students are the ones interacting with and learning about programs, we are the ones that need to share our experiences or nothing can improve. Through the NBOME’s Advocacy and Education page, students will have an opportunity to do just that. Bringing concerns to the attention of NBOME has allowed me to evoke change and promote fairness for DOs just through a simple tweet. I am sure that others will have a similar experience if they choose to do the same. 

Editor’s note: For more information, readers can visit the AOA’s Professional Advocacy page. Melissa Turner, the vice president for strategy and quality initiatives at NBOME, served as the consultant for this piece. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

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