November 19th, 2020
Where DO We Go from Here? Being an Osteopathic Physician in 2020
The latter portion of 2020 has brought forth an unfortunate series of comments in the news, on social media, and even in the ad of a fashionable scrub company that called into question the credibility of DOs to practice medicine and surgery and to serve as public health experts. As a proud graduate of an osteopathic medical school and who, as of this past month, is officially an ABIM-certified internist, the attacks are frustrating, but unfortunately not entirely unfamiliar. Many of us, regardless of how specialized we become, at some point over the course of our careers find ourselves explaining or justifying our credentials to patients, peers, and mentors who are less familiar with our degree. While no opinion is universally held within the medical community, some of my MD colleagues admit to previous biases against DOs, which abated as soon as they worked with them as colleagues or taught them as medical students and residents. It is for this reason that increased representation matters, particularly at an unprecedented time when conspiracy theorists will use any means possible to question the integrity of medical professionals.
2020 also marks a momentous milestone in graduate medical education: the completion of the ACGME single accreditation process, a five year endeavor which consolidated the governance of previously osteopathic and allopathic training programs. Osteopathic medical students no longer have to choose between residency matches (the American Osteopathic Association-affiliated programs previously had a separate match), and allopathic candidates can now apply to programs that were previously limited to osteopathic alumni. Training MDs and DOs side-by-side will thus become increasingly common. My hope is that normalizing the heterogeneity of trainees will not only lead to further promotion and publication of osteopathic physicians, it will also engender more subtle nods to our parity. Examples include removing the expectation that DO students need to gratuitously sit for the USMLE in addition to their COMLEX-USA licensing exams, or even evolving expressions such as “MD aware” to include DOs.
Thank you to everyone reading who rallied to the defense of DOs as we were misrepresented over the past few months. As we approach the 2021 recruitment season, I implore you to take your support a step further. Reflect on whether your institution regularly welcomes residents, fellows, and faculty who graduated from osteopathic medical schools, and if it does not, please consider these candidates for your program. We are competent, compassionate, and ambitious physicians, whose additional training in manipulative medicine gives us a unique perspective on prevention and ways to conservatively augment care. When given the opportunities, we rise to leadership positions and make significant contributions to our fields, mentoring our allopathic and osteopathic contemporaries along the way. So, hire us. The more we are included, the more we all succeed.