Bright outlook

Get to know the AOA’s president-elect, OB-GYN Teresa A. Hubka, DO

In this interview, Dr. Hubka discusses her journey as she readies herself to become the second woman president of the AOA.


One of the challenges in writing a column such as this is that it’s often difficult to compress a subject’s achievements into a workable amount of prose. Such is the case with Teresa A. Hubka, DO. I had the pleasure of sitting down (virtually) with Dr. Hubka to discuss her personal and professional journey as she readies herself for another major career milestone—becoming the second woman president of the AOA this July at the annual House of Delegates meeting in Chicago.

Dr. Hubka, tell us a little about your personal background.

I grew up in San Diego, one of nine children. My mom was an educator, and my dad was in the military. They were very supportive parents, and there was never any doubt I was going to college. I enrolled at the University of California at Davis (UC-Davis), majoring in biochemistry and nutrition science. After that, I pursued a master’s degree in Bridgeport, Connecticut, through a program that was affiliated with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). That’s where I did my clinical nutrition work. I focused on food allergies and worked closely with some gastroenterologists. This led me back to San Diego to do an internship, where I became a registered dietician.

While working as a hospital dietician, I met Emmett Lee Rice, DO. He brought me in to be the center’s dietician and nutritionist. Dr. Rice became a real mentor for me, and through him I met several other DOs. I also did some teaching at what was then the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP) in Pasadena, which really sparked my interest in the field of osteopathic medicine.

It’s such a common ‘origin story,’ how sometimes an almost chance meeting with a DO ends up fostering a remarkable career.

It really is. I became very interested in pursuing a medical career and initially applied to MD schools and was accepted at UC-San Francisco. But something intervened to delay that, and when I reapplied, I specifically sought out osteopathic medical schools. My mother was a believer in holistic approaches and the integration of medicine with other disciplines, so she was very supportive. I was accepted and enrolled at what is now Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine (DMU-COM).

I loved my time there and graduated in 1989. During my clinical rotation years, I did primarily out-of-state rotations, which really gave me a broad experience and exposed me to a range of physicians and practices around the country.

Next, you would have moved on to what we used to call a rotating internship.

I did, at the Atlantic City Medical Center, which was a new program at the time. It had only 12 interns, but I realized it was exactly the type of program I was looking for. I had already committed to a much larger program and actually had to request permission to switch. Fortunately, that request was granted, so off to New Jersey I went.

You spent a year down the shore, as we NJ natives like to say, and then what?

I was going to do my OB-GYN residency through the osteopathic program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry at New Jersey (UMDNJ), but some personal concerns intervened. So, after a little shuffling and another round of asking permissions, I was granted an OB-GYN position at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago, which was an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) program. I completed my residency there. It was another great program with great teachers and mentors.

What advice do you have for our readers who are in these phases of their education and training now?

Don’t be a shrinking violet, is what I’d say. Learn about your environment and get to know the people. Find the ones you think you want to emulate, then make yourself known. Engage. Get involved. Network with others and always be available to learn more. Establish connections. Challenge yourself.

This is wonderful advice. Where in your career did you start to see yourself wanting to be part of the profession’s leadership structure?

I started getting involved as a student. I was active in the Student Council at Des Moines and through that I got involved with the AOA as a member of the Council of Student Council Presidents. I got a lot of exposure to how things worked and what it took to be involved in those processes. During my clerkship years, I joined any and all of the local and state associations where I was rotating and met the people who were leading them. When I was a resident in Chicago, I really got engaged as a member of the Illinois Osteopathic Medical Society, going to lectures, giving lectures and taking courses. Each year, I’ve gone to the AOA House of Delegates (HOD) meeting and served as a student, then resident, then physician.

Through my position within the Illinois Osteopathic Medical Society (IOMS), I was elected the IOMS delegation chair, coordinating the Illinois delegation to the AOA HOD. Also, the American Academy of Osteopathy was close by in Indiana, so I would take courses there to keep up my osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) skills. What those experiences taught me is that I wanted to be “at the table” where decisions got made—not just for me but for our profession in general.

Your leadership career took shape pretty quickly.

Yes. I remained connected to Des Moines and engaged in the Alumni Association, where I became the president of the National Alumni Association. I also became president of the Illinois Osteopathic Medical Society, which gave me a lot of interaction at the state level but also a great deal of interacting with the AOA at the national level. I also became very involved in the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOOG), another superb organization with a tradition of great leadership and mentorship. Eventually, I became president of ACOOG.

When did you realize that your path could possibly lead you to the highest leadership position in our profession?

At one point, I joined the board of the American Osteopathic Foundation (AOF). That provided me with both national and international exposure and engagement. Through my participation in all the councils and committees, I became the AOF’s first female president. That’s when I started making presentations to the AOA and got onto the AOA’s council on women’s health, with the help of Melicien Ann Tettambel, DO, an OB-GYN who was also very big in OMM. Eventually, I became the council chair.

I remained very engaged in IOMS during my training years and eventually became the president. As IOMS is a member society of the United Federation of Osteopathic Societies (UFOS), I was nominated to join the slate of UFOS members who could eventually move to the AOA Board of Trustees (BOT). From there, in 2013, I was nominated and elected to the BOT.

After seven years of serving on the BOT and with the mentorship and encouragement of AOA Past Presidents Karen Nichols, DO (2010-11), and Norman Vinn, DO (2013-14), I was recommended to be the UFOS candidate for president of the AOA.

What was that like?

There is a process you must go through once you have been identified as a potential leader of the profession. I had to interview before various committees and make presentations where I explained why I was qualified and how and where I wanted to lead the AOA if I was elected. I was nominated by IOMS and UFOS and then introduced at the Annual HOD meeting in July of 2023 in Chicago as president-elect.

I can see that the AOA recognized a talent for leadership throughout your entire career and a commitment to the osteopathic profession and what it stands for.

I believe that commitment, professional accomplishment and, above all, service to our patients, colleagues and organization and its mission are the qualities that make one worthy of consideration for this position.

I’m not sure you could state it any better than that.

I can’t stress enough to our students and residents that this path is open to everyone. It’s about what you do, who you meet while you’re doing it and how hard you work. Mentors will always recognize talent, drive and commitment.

When I listen to you tell your story, something that jumps out is how many mentors you’ve hadhow many people saw in you someone who was going places. Your accomplishments as a clinician truly surpass even the highest of your leadership achievements. It’s a great example for everyone who’s matriculating or training today.

I’ll reiterate for our younger students and physicians—regardless of where you are, get out and make yourself known. Get involved. If you have what it takes, people will notice you and encourage you—and those people will help you. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of time—but there’s simply no substitute for commitment.

I have to note that all of our previous No Limits subjects have said more or less the same thing. Thank you, Dr. Hubka, for your time. I know we all wish you only the best as you prepare to take on this most important role in July.

If you would like to suggest a physician for a future No Limits profile, please contact The DO’s editorial office at

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

No Limits: A conversation with Dr. Shapiro

The 4th wave of osteopathic medicine: Re-establishing osteopathic distinctiveness

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