The need for professional unity—past, present and future
The Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 was awarded not to an individual but to the European Union (EU). As the Wall Street Journal reported last October, the Nobel Committee recognized the EU for “more than six decades during which the conflict-ridden continent pulled together and became a harbinger of ‘peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights’ at home and beyond.”
Just as Europe has made great progress pulling together, so too the osteopathic family has come together in recent years like never before. We should be proud of our unity because by hanging together, we have faced the challenges of the past and present and are prepared for those ahead. Let’s reflect on some examples.
Launched in 1998 by the late then-AOA President Howard M. Levine, DO, the AOA’s Campaign for Osteopathic Unity sought to unify the osteopathic family, build public awareness of osteopathic medicine and accentuate the distinctiveness of the care DOs provide. All osteopathic specialty societies, state osteopathic medical associations and our nonpractice affiliates gave this program their stamp of approval.
More than 100 news stories aired on television and radio and appeared in newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times and US News & World Report—on top of advertisements we placed in USA Today and the Chicago Tribune. Our messages about osteopathic medicine reached more than 20 million people across America.
More important, the Unity campaign rallied the profession around a common cause—spreading the “good news” about osteopathic medicine and our distinctiveness. We honored the spirit of unity at the AOA’s 2005 Unified Convention and OMED 2010 Unified and are making plans for the next OMED Unified in 2015.
Health system reform
Our spirit of unity was challenged again when the U.S. Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Although the act advances many policies adopted by the AOA House of Delegates—universal coverage for patients, fair and reasonable payment for physicians, and better models of care delivery, to name a few—ideological differences and partisan politics fractured the country along blue and red state lines.
Recognizing and considering all sides of the debate, the AOA Board voted unanimously in support of the Affordable Care Act and the larger mission of reforming our health care delivery system. The health reform law is not perfect any more than any piece of legislation, organization or society is. But with organized medicine’s support, the Affordable Care Act will succeed and endure.
The Unity campaign showed us what we can accomplish when the AOA and other members of the osteopathic family work together on behalf of a common cause. The recently signed Document of Collaboration and Principles of Affiliation codify our close relationship and cement a strong foundation for the AOA’s partnership with our state and specialty osteopathic medical societies.
These documents spell out our respective rights and our responsibilities to one another as we effectively represent and advocate for our profession. Our signing of the documents serves as the symbolic starting point for the successes we will continue to achieve in advancing osteopathic medicine.
Following the AOA Board’s approval of a restructuring plan submitted by the AOA Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists, we are working with our 18 specialty certifying boards to move their administration within the AOA. The plan involves centralizing the boards’ financial management to ensure appropriate stewardship of resources and allow the boards to focus on the psychometric quality of their exams.
This restructuring will ensure transparent, common governance of our certification system as we implement the first year of osteopathic continuous certification.
Joining the ACGME
Nowhere is the need for unity more apparent than in our work to establish a single system of accrediting graduate medical education. As I’ve discussed at length, the AOA and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) are exploring the development of a unified accreditation system by 2015. Both the AOA and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine will have seats on the ACGME Board of Directors.
We must be vigilant in advancing osteopathic principles in postdoctoral training as we work with the ACGME. We must ensure that any new system preserves the uniquely osteopathic elements of our training and encourages DO graduates to remain aligned with the osteopathic family and culture throughout their training and careers.
Working in unison, the AOA and our specialty societies will make sure that all osteopathic graduates can pursue the residencies and fellowships of their choice.
The goals I’ve outlined here are all reflected in the ultimate symbol of our teamwork—the AOA’s 2014-16 Strategic Plan. While it may not win a Nobel Peace Prize, a draft of the plan was sent to all members of the AOA official family to ensure that it encompasses our affiliates’ priorities and defines the right direction for the profession. This process guarantees that our goals are not the AOA’s alone—they are our profession’s shared objectives. Like Ben Franklin advised at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Our unity ensures that whatever challenges we face in the days, months and years ahead, the AOA, like our great nation, will succeed and endure. We can DO it!