Annual American Osteopathic Association House Of Delegates Meeting

By George W. Zimmerman, DO, FAOAO

The 95th 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 17, 2015.  At this business meeting of nearly 500 delegates from around the country and representatives from our professional academies and societies, pertinent issues related to the AOA and health care in general were debated and discussed.

The meeting commenced with the formal roll call of delegates and then an uplifting greeting presentation by Alicia Martin, DO, and the President of the Illinois Osteopathic Medical Society.  Following these presentations were more in-depth, informative reports from the individual committees of the AOA board. 

One presentation presented by Thomas J. Nasca, MD and Boyd Buser, DO, on the implementation of the ACGME single accreditation system was both informative and very important.  July 1, 2015, marks the beginning of this 5-year transition to a single GME accreditation system.  Dr. Nasca, Chief Executive Officer of the ACGME, gave an in-depth slide presentation and lecture on the more than 18-month long process and the procedures completed to blend ACGME and the AOA.  He completed his presentation describing both the future importance and historic nature of the effort to bring together the two associations, thereby creating a unified national system of professional oversight and accountability for GME in the United States.

Dr. Buser, President Elect of the AOA, then reported on where we currently stand with the number of training programs applying and being certified.  He reported on the number of intern, resident and fellow GME positions being filled compared to the past years.  Each of the presenting physicians pledged that our two associations are extremely committed to this process and to the future of GME.

AOA Executive Director and CEO, Adrienne White-Faines, provided her report and comments.  She praised our profession's resilience and progress towards very ambitious goals.  She described the year’s achievements to include the Brand campaign to boost awareness of Osteopathic Medicine.  Ms. White-Faines commented on our sound financial stability, the emphasis on medical research, the growing osteopathic GME programs and the many Federal and State advocacy victories over the last 12 months.  As an example of our growing collaboration with other corporations and organizations, she discussed the partnership of the AOA and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  This synergy allowed voluntary efforts of DO students and physicians to staff M.D.A. camps in the spring and summer across our nation.  She concluded her presentation with the chant that "our time is here and our time is now!" 

President, Robert S. Juhasz, DO, reflected on his year of service with his farewell address, entitled "The Difference a Year Makes."  He explained and described the transformative changes that had occurred for the Osteopathic Medical Profession over the year.  He reiterated the topics from his speech in 2014, "What Is Our Why."  He answered his questions and the topics, Who Are We, What Do We Teach, What Do We Do and What Difference Do We Make.  Dr. Juhasz, gave examples of all these key topics such as the acceptance of the ACGME, the governmental adversary for the DO with the regulatory programs and public policy.  He spoke about the need for a DO awareness program and the brand recognition project upcoming.  He described the relevance and the value of AOA membership and that healthcare delivery is changing rapidly in the United States and around the world.  He stated that the people, the patients are hungry for the kind of care, we, as DO’s can provide.  He finished his presentation with a slide show of where he went and what he did for our association over the last year.

The business meeting then proceeded with nominations and elections for the AOA officers and the Board of Trustees.  The new President Elect of the AOA was nominated and AOA trustee, Boyd R. Buser, DO accepted the position for the upcoming year.   

Further house reports and special orders of business were conducted, as were laborious debates and discussions with amendments and resolutions, affirmations and amendments to the amendments.

The AOA House of Delegates did adapt permanent healthcare policy which included the support of expanding laws to protect physicians against increasing violence and assaults, both verbal and physical.  The House approved a resolution calling for the end of the FDA's bar on sperm donation by gay men.  Drug-resistant bacteria prompted the delegates to adapt new policy calling for a much more reasonable antibiotic stewardship.  The House also requested a significant increase in mental health resources for students and DO’s to help reduce the stigmata of mental health problems and raise awareness for its significant consequences. 

The A.T. Still Memorial Lecture was presented by our own, Peter B. Ajluni, DO, past President of the AOA and AOAO.  Dr. Ajluni commenced his lecture by reflecting on the speech given last year by Dr. William D. Strampel, DO relating to his discussion of the historic ACGME unification and its surrounding controversy.  He described the sense of animosity and unrest in the AOA membership, and the worry that the melting together of the two medical fields would dilute the uniqueness of osteopathic education and weaken our profession as a whole.  Dr. Strampel was quoted in saying "do not fear change, but to forge ahead like A.T. Still did so many years ago, we now need to lead the way forward."   

Dr. Ajluni used a video clip from the Robert Redford movie, “The Candidate” in the film – Redford’s character was a newly elected United States Senator, with absolutely no experience, who asked the question "what do we do now?"  Dr. Ajluni remarked that now we have been recognized by the allopathic community, what do we do now?   We have fought for years and have suffered through multiple trials and tribulations to get to where we are today.  How do we respond to this opportunity?  Do we assimilate into the allopathic world and become part of the masses, or do we become even more influential in the House of Medicine?  Our profession is at a critical junction and we have to "champion our distinction.”  We need to use this opportunity to further the Philosophy and Science of Osteopathic Medicine.

Dr. Ajluni compared our present time to the era of A.T. Still.  He expressed very distinct similarities between 2015 and 140 years ago.  He described A.T. Still as a visionary that challenged the status quo.  Dr. Ajluni proposed that we carry on Dr. Still's legacy and "let our light shine."  Our time is now; we need to be visionaries and we need to be advocates for our profession.  We must innovate, adapt, learn and grow.  We need to tell our osteopathic story to all.  Raise awareness of our profession and be accountable for the future of osteopathic medicine.  We must seek the horizon and set a path to it.  He quoted Oscar Wilder, a contemporary of A.T. Still, "A visionary is one who can find the way by the moonlight and see the dawn before the rest of the world."  Dr. Ajluni vocalized that as osteopathic physicians, we have found our way by moonlight many, many times; but now we must see the dawn before the rest of the medical world, because we are visionaries and our time is now. 

On Saturday, July 18, the new AOA President, John W. Becher, DO, was inaugurated by a formal ceremony and presentation.  Dr. Becher began his Presidential Address, by expressing how energized he is and pledged his best for the year to come.

Dr. Becher reflected on his more than 40 years as an osteopathic physician.  He thanked friends, family members, peers, mentors, and educators; all of who helped him on his journey to become the 119th President of the AOA.

He then declared that our osteopathic medical profession is currently in a unique position to lead the House of Medicine.  He discussed the growth of our profession, from five schools to 34 colleges, and the fact that we now have practice rights in over 60 different countries.  Osteopathic Medicine has seen exponential growth over the past 4 decades, and with 60% of the DO practicing in Primary Care, our profession is well-positioned to help with our country’s primary care shortage.  We are in the "sweet spot" to lead.  It has been shown through market research that healthcare consumers appreciate our holistic approach to patient care.  The public demands for healthcare delivery are aligned with our approach to medical training, as well as Osteopathic philosophy and science. He expressed his belief that this is an excellent time to advance the growth of osteopathic medicine.

Dr. Becher then provided his Presidential Goals.  First would be to focus on increasing awareness of Osteopathic Medicine.  The AOA's upcoming brand awareness campaign will heighten the profession’s profile.  Second, would be to work on expanding Osteopathic research capabilities and capacity, as well as pursue funding to support pilot research projects documenting the impact and importance of Osteopathic Medicine.  Third, to create new osteopathic residency programs and expand on the high quality CME we now offer.  Fourth, to boost advocacy efforts at the State and Federal levels.  And finally, to maintain financial responsibility.  Dr. Becher urged all of us to show our pride and to get involved outside the Osteopathic Medical Profession, whether through community leadership or engaging in public policy.  He requests that we tell the world why we are DO,  encouraging all to let our voices be heard and tell the story why Osteopathic Medicine matters.  He then went on to paraphrase the famous quote of President J. F. Kennedy, with an osteopathic twist by stating "Don't ask what Osteopathic Medicine can do for you, but ask what you can do for Osteopathic Medicine".  

Dr. Becher was quoted as saying we are living in a world of constant change and this offers us an unprecedented opportunity to advance the distinctive philosophy, approach and practice of Osteopathic Medicine.  He closed his remarks with a quote from Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has."    

The 95th Annual House of Delegates Meeting was adjourned by the Speaker of the House, Ray L. Morrison, DO, on Sunday, July 19, 2015.  All delegates appeared energized and enthusiastic about meeting the challenges the upcoming year and all of the new and exciting issues the year will bring.  

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