Overhaul of Medical Education to Address Primary Care Physician Shortage Recommended by National Panel

Blue Ribbon Commission for the Advancement of Osteopathic Medical Education Issues Transformative Recommendations; Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Seeking to Implement Findings With Its Health System Partners

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - Nov 4, 2013) -

News Summary:
A Blue Ribbon Commission of medical education leaders has published in a report in the November issue of Health Affairs an analysis of new recommendations for requirements for graduating doctors of osteopathic medicine, including:

1. A change to readiness for residency training, rather than years of study, as the requirement for graduation from undergraduate medical school. Completion of residency training should also be based on readiness for practice, not years of training.
2. Increased clinical experience in a range of environments from first year in school and a more seamless transition from medical school to graduate medical education.
3. A stronger focus on primary care and preparedness to function in the modern health care system.

  • Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine intends to incorporate concepts into programs following Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations in partnership with their health system partners.

A national panel of medical education experts recommends that osteopathic medical schools, which enroll nearly one in four medical students in the U.S., develop programs in partnership with teaching hospitals and other training sites to provide more hands-on learning, and provide students with the opportunity to advance in their training based upon satisfying measures of competency instead of a prescribed number of months of study. The goal is to efficiently and effectively train primary care-focused physicians who can deliver team-based care and will be proficient in prevention, health care systems planning, leadership, and emerging health information technology.

The panel's recommendations will be released Monday in a full report at www.BlueRibbonCommission.org. An analysis of the report will be published in the November issue of Health Affairs

The Blue Ribbon Commission for the Advancement of Osteopathic Medical Education (BRC) was sponsored by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), which represents the nation's 30 osteopathic medical schools, and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), which represents more than 104,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students.

A Primary Care Focus

The BRC was tasked with recommending changes needed to prepare and train primary care physicians for the evolving U.S. health care system. 

"Osteopathic medical education has been rooted in primary care since its development over a century ago," said Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, President and CEO of AACOM and co-author of the Health Affairs article. "We believe that these traditions coupled with medical education programs that are immersed in the clinical care setting from the earliest days of training using the latest advances in learning principles, can improve efficiency of the educational pathway while preparing graduates to be well-prepared to join in the nation's transforming health care system as leaders in primary care."

Sixty percent of DOs practice primary care, and many practice in underserved urban and rural areas. AACOM recently announced an 11 percent increase in new enrollment at the nation's osteopathic medical schools.

Key Principles

The BRC's report outlines five key principles for a new pathway for osteopathic medical education.

1) Focus on community needs served by primary care physicians. Prepare physicians for primary care practice by focusing training on team-based and patient-centered care. Incorporate prevention and population health to improve quality and efficiency of care.

2) Advancement based on knowledge, not years of study. Build competency-based curricula centered on biomedical, behavioral, and clinical science foundations. Establish measurable outcomes specific to medical education to assess graduates' readiness for professional practice.

3) Boost clinical experience. The curriculum should become a continuous, longitudinal educational experience, providing clinical experience from a student's first year, with increasing levels of responsibility through the duration of training. A seamless transition between undergraduate and graduate medical education should be established, eliminating redundancies and inefficiencies.

4) Require a range of experience. The programs should be administered by medical schools in collaboration with graduate medical education providers. Clinical experiences should occur in a wide variety of environments, including both hospital and ambulatory care settings. Community-based sites, such as integrated health systems, community health centers, and large practice groups would provide optimal environments for learning experiences in primary care.

5) Require modern health system literacy. Programs should focus on health care delivery science, including the principles of high-quality, high-value, outcomes-based health care environments, such as accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes.

"As we develop better, more efficient ways to care for patients, it is imperative that our medical education model evolves in a way that produces more community-based primary care physicians capable of leading modern teams of medical professionals and other caregivers who work together to provide a comprehensive form of care designed to keep patients healthy," said Marc B. Hahn, DO, President and CEO of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences; BRC co-chair; and co-author of the Health Affairs paper. "While we are aiming to implement a new pathway for medical education, this new model embodies the principles that have guided osteopathic medicine for more than 135 years, including its strong emphasis on treating the whole person and leading healthy lifestyles that prevent illness before it occurs."

"Osteopathic medical schools have a strong track record of offering clinical experiences to students in a wide variety of environments, including hospitals, community health centers and physicians' practices of various sizes early on in their curriculum," said Boyd R. Buser, DO, Vice President and Dean of the University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine; BRC co-chair; and co-author of the Health Affairs article. "With this foundation, the osteopathic medical profession is well prepared to establish a new pathway allowing students to advance their education based on readiness for residency training and ultimately the practice of osteopathic medicine to more adequately meet the health care needs of our population."

A New Pathway: Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Partners to Improve Primary Care
Strong partnerships between medical schools and health care systems will be key to innovations in medical education. The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine is working with a number of its longtime health system partners to develop new means to train physicians.

"Our partner systems are transforming the delivery of primary care, and medical education is integral to the success of these efforts," said Kenneth Johnson, DO, Executive Dean of the Heritage College. "We're working now with the Cleveland Clinic on opening a new campus, and we're discussing how to best integrate primary care delivery and medical education to improve primary care physician training, patient outcomes, and population health."

"We embrace the Blue Ribbon Commission concepts. We're going to be looking at how we may incorporate these ideas into our new campuses, ideas such as competency-based training and a more seamless experience between medical school years and residency years beginning in year one of medical school, and also between medical education and patient care," explained Dr. Johnson.

"We have a powerful focus on primary care. Cleveland Clinic is expert in developing innovative team approaches to patient outcomes. Our partnership could make for an ideal proving ground for approaches to implementing BRC recommendations," said Dr. Johnson.

"We're working collaboratively with Heritage College to develop a program that integrates primary care physician education and training within a patient-centered delivery care model," said Robert Juhasz, DO, President, Cleveland Clinic's South Pointe Hospital. "This recommendation comes at a pivotal time as together we are opening a medical school on our campus to address the growing shortage of primary care physicians in Northeast Ohio."

About DOs and Osteopathic Medicine

Osteopathic physicians (DOs) are fully licensed to practice the unlimited scope of medicine and surgery in all specialties and sub-specialties. They take a whole-person approach to care involving the patient as a partner in achieving wellness by promoting healthy lifestyles and disease prevention. Practiced by DOs, osteopathic medicine is a complete system of medical care, and in addition to studying all of the typical subjects student physicians are expected to master, osteopathic medical students complete approximately 200 additional hours of training in osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). With OMM, DOs use their hands to move a patient's muscles and joints to help alleviate pain, restore motion, support the body's inherent healing abilities and influence the body's structure to help it function more efficiently. Interest in osteopathic medicine is increasing nationwide. Today there are more than 104,000 DOs and osteopathic medical students in the United States, and one in four entering U.S. medical students is training to become a DO.

About the Blue Ribbon Commission for the Advancement of Osteopathic Medical Education

To respond to the nation's need for a robust primary care physician workforce, the American Osteopathic Association and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine established the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) for the Advancement of Osteopathic Medical Education. The BRC's goal is to envision a new model for medical education grounded in osteopathic principles and practices that will better prepare physicians for success in today's health care environment. The 24-member commission broadly represents osteopathic medicine, reflecting the practice community, physicians-in-training, professional organizations, medical colleges, accreditation organizations, and state medical licensing boards.


The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) represents the nation's 30 colleges of osteopathic medicine at 40 locations in 28 states. Today, more than 23,000 students are enrolled in osteopathic medical schools. AACOM was founded in 1898 to support and assist the nation's osteopathic medical schools, and to serve as a unifying voice for osteopathic medical education. AACOM's mission is to promote excellence in osteopathic medical education, in research and in service, and to foster innovation and quality among osteopathic medical colleges to improve the health of the American public. For more information, go to www.aacom.org.

About AOA

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) is a professional membership organization representing the nation's osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students. Headquartered in Chicago, the AOA's mission is to advance the philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine. The AOA also serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities.

Contact Information:

Jamie Rosen
Blue Ribbon Commission
202 870-3093