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Osteopathic Medical Schools Graduated a Record Number of New Physicians in 2018

Medical Students

CHICAGO —With one in four American medical students choosing to attend an osteopathic medical school, the American Osteopathic Association reports a record 6,504 new osteopathic physicians graduated in 2018. 

In total, the newly published 2018 Report on the Osteopathic Medical Profession found 114,425 osteopathic physicians (DOs) in the United States and nearly 31,000 students enrolled in a college of osteopathic medicine. Nearly 22,000 new DOs participated in residency training, which is required for licensure and independent practice, during the 2017-18 academic year, according to the report.

“The growth of our profession is important to the overall health care system, which is feeling the impact of a widening physician shortage, particularly in rural and underserved areas,” said William S. Mayo, DO, American Osteopathic Association president. “Currently, 65 percent of practicing DOs are younger than 45 and our numbers have tripled over the past three decades. These rising osteopathic physicians will serve patients in their communities for multiple generations.” 

A majority of DOs, about 57 percent, trained in primary care specialties, including family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics. A September 2018 editorial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a quarter of family medicine residency positions were filled by DOs, concluding that “graduates of osteopathic schools are disproportionately helping to fill the gap in primary care.”

About 20 percent of DOs also choose to work in medically underserved areas or with underserved populations, adding to the overall impact of the osteopathic profession, Dr. Mayo added.

“As an ophthalmologist and Mississippi native who is proud to care for the people of my home state, I can tell you that physicians in all specialties are needed, particularly in our rural communities. The osteopathic medical schools developed during the last decade are strategically located in areas where they can significantly improve the overall health of their communities by attracting local students who remain in the state after graduation,” Dr. Mayo said. 

Key findings from the 2018 report include:

  • 65 percent of practicing DOs are age 45 or younger
  • Women comprise 41 percent of practicing DOs 
  • 74 percent of all practicing female DOs have entered the profession within the past 14 years
  •  Nearly 50 percent of DOs practice in seven states: Pennsylvania, California, Florida, New York, Michigan, Texas and Ohio
  • The top 5 non-primary care practice specialties are emergency medicine, anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery and psychiatry

Currently, the American Osteopathic Association and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) are transitioning to a single system for training new physicians, known as graduate medical education (GME). At the end of the five-year transition, all new physicians will be eligible to apply for osteopathic and non-osteopathic residencies in every specialty.

Historically, ACGME and AOA maintained separate accreditation systems for residencies and fellowships, although osteopathic physicians could join programs accredited by either organization. The final AOA Match takes place in February 2019. 

Source: American Osteopathic Association (AOA). To learn more about DOs and the osteopathic philosophy of medicine, visit www.DoctorsThatDo.org.

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