Annual American Osteopathic Association House of Delegates Meeting
By George W. Zimmerman, DO, FAOAO
Second Vice President, AOAO
The 94th Annual Meeting of the American Osteopathic Association House of Delegates was called to order by Ray Morrison, DO, Speaker of the House, at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago on July 18, 2014. At this historic business meeting of over 500 delegates from around the country and representatives from our professional academies and societies, a large volume of issues were discussed and debated on pertinent health care topics. These issues included the approval and implementation of a single GME Accreditation System, acceptance of new AOA policies, election of new officer and board members, and the installation of the new 2014-2015 AOA President, Robert S. Juhasz.
The atmosphere and surroundings of this meeting were the mixture of a national political convention, a Broadway show, and a religious prayer meeting. The theme appeared to be based on the students, the young professionals, and the growth and future of our association. Never before has there been so much student involvement and participation in our national AOA meeting.
The meeting began with an inspirational opening message from our CEO and Executive Director Adrienne White-Faines. She highlighted the year's successes and rallied support for the ongoing evolution of our profession. She was quoted to say, "This is a new day, and we must evolve together in the spirit of the possible."
The meeting then proceeded to the farewell address of the outgoing AOA President Norman E. Vinn, DO. As he reflected on his term as the leader of our association, he compared his year of presidency to a deck of cards. Dr. Vinn quoted from author Randy Pausch, "We cannot change the cards we are dealt; just how we play them." President Vinn admitted that some of the cards dealt him this year were a bit of a challenge, but all in all he had some aces in the people and staff around him, and we as an association had a winning hand. Dr. Vinn commented on the youth of our profession with 80% of all DO degrees being issued within the last 4 years. He reminded us that the AOA is a young, growing profession that brings a wealth of opportunity for future growth and leadership in the field of medicine.
He was quoted as saying, "Be adaptable but most importantly be optimistic about the future each of us will help shape." With those closing remarks, the California dude and surfing president caught his last wave, and a flash mob of medical students broke out in the ballroom to the tunes of the Beach Boys. After all the excitement and hoopla calmed down, the business part of the meeting commenced.
Department and committee reports were presented. CEO Adrienne White-Faines announced that although the AOA was budgeted to end the fiscal year 3 million dollars in the red, the organization actually finished with a 1 million dollar surplus. She assured the association members that from now on, the budget will remain balanced. Our Executive Officer also reported on the AOA's 3-year strategic plan, as well as the long term plan.
The areas of focus include: A) Membership Engagement and Revenue Reliance; B) Research Alignment; C) Practice Service Delivery; and D) Continued Collaboration and Partnership Development. White-Faines commented about the youth of our profession as well. She quoted "that 60% of practicing DOs today are under the age of 45. Everything we do...must be designed with the youth of our profession in mind."
Reports of the many committees continued, and further debate and discussion took place on many healthcare topics. The policies ranged from the AOA support of federally regulating E Cigarettes to expanding research on recreational and medicinal use of marijuana, to the healthcare shortage in rural America and influenza vaccination programs. Hours of discussion took place with amendments to the amendments and resolutions that were resolved or tabled to future dates.
The most important discussion was that related to a single GME Accreditation System. An announcement was made in February 2014 that the American Osteopathic Association and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) reached an agreement to work together to allow DO and MD medical student graduates to complete their residencies and fellowships in ACGME Accredited Programs. The debate on this topic was grueling, and hours of discussion and testimonials went on with students and practitioners commenting either for or against the policy. The students and the AOA leadership were strong advocates for the resolution, while the ACOFP voiced their opinion against the single accreditation system. After all was said and done, the delegates representing more than 104,000 osteopathic physician and DO students, voted to support the decision of the AOA Board of Trustees. Now that the resolution has passed, progress will be made to fully implement the new system by July 2020.
Following the historic vote, the AOA House of Delegates Meeting continued with multiple awards, accolades, presentations, and lectures. The A. T. Still Lecture was presented by William D. Strampel, DO. Dr. Strampel described A. T. Still, MD-DO as a "disruptive innovator" whose story should continue to inspire today's DOs and medical students as they consider the challenges facing the profession today. The theme of his speech was "What would A. T. Still do if he were around today?" Dr. Strampel felt that Dr. Still was at the right place at the right time for revolutionary changes in the way medicine was practiced in the 1700s. He feels the current changes in the medical profession today should not be feared but accepted. The four generations of DOs practicing today, Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials, should work together and build on the solid foundation Dr. A. T. Still set down as a history of innovation and dedication to medicine. Dr. Strampel stated that, "we the profession will change the face of American medicine" as did A. T. Still did in his time.
The new AOA President, Robert S. Juhasz, was inaugurated by a formal ceremony and video presentation. President Juhasz reminisced about his past and upbringing. He remarked that the hospital of which he is in charge of today is the same hospital where he got his start in medicine as a dishwasher in the cafeteria many years ago. Dr. Juhasz' speech was entitled, "What is your why?" He proceeds to explain the "why" of the osteopathic profession has always been to improve care of the people we have the privilege to serve. Dr. Juhasz felt that in order for the profession to enhance its impact, he believes there are four questions that must be explored: 1) Who are we? 2) How do we teach? 3) What do we do? 4) What difference does it make? Dr. Juhasz then proceeded to go into a discussion on each of these questions and provided a detailed answer on how they are related to our American Osteopathic Association. President Juhasz expressed optimism about the future of the AOA and the osteopathic profession. He urged all of us "to improve all medical care through the shining light of osteopathic medicine."
The 94th Annual House of Delegates Meeting came to an enthusiastic but exhausted close with the nomination and election of new officers and board members. Adjournment was immediately preceded by the nomination and acceptance of the new President-Elect of the American Osteopathic Association, John W. Becher, DO.