FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla., Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) has joined with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) in a historic agreement to pursue a single accreditation system for graduate medical education programs in the United States beginning in July 2015. The AOA is the accrediting body for osteopathic (D.O.) internships, residencies, and fellowships; the ACGME serves as the accrediting body for M.D. internships, residencies, and fellowships.
Over the coming months, the three organizations will work toward defining a process, format, and timetable for the ACGME to accredit all osteopathic graduate medical education programs currently accredited by the AOA. "We are supportive of the agreement and firmly believe it will benefit health care in the United States to have a single accrediting system for interns, residents, and fellows," said Anthony J. Silvagni, D.O., Pharm.D., M.Sc., who serves as dean of Nova Southeastern University's College of Osteopathic Medicine (NSU-COM).
Osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) began certifying graduate medical education programs in 1947. Since the 1950s, D.O.s have trained in both AOA and ACGME accredited internships, residencies, and fellowships. Currently, approximately half of all D.O. graduates in the United States enter ACGME-accredited programs and half enter AOA-accredited programs, with each system having separate rules, requirements, processes, deadlines, and requirements for continuous certification and maintenance of licensure. Merging the two accreditation systems would provide D.O. graduates with a streamlined pathway to physician licensure and practice.
At NSU-COM, for example, the proposed merger would ensure that each year, D.O. graduates would have seamless access to all the residency programs in the state of Florida. With research showing that physicians frequently enter practice in the state of their graduate medical education training program, the accreditation merger could help to alleviate physician shortages in Florida by having fewer unfilled positions."We are fortunate to have a very active Council of Florida Medical School Deans, and through its cooperative structure, it is my opinion that Florida medical schools will have an easier transition for the M.D. or D.O. medical school graduates being accepted into either ACGME or AOA residency programs," Silvagni stated. While details for the planned merger will be discussed over the coming months, the following will occur should negotiations be successful:
- The transition to a unified system would be seamless; residents in or entering current AOA-accredited residency programs would be eligible to complete residency and/or fellowship training in ACGME-accredited residency and fellowship programs.
- The unified system would create an opportunity to set universal standards for demonstrating outcomes-based physician competency and enhance the ability to share information on best practices.
- All osteopathic training programs would automatically be deemed accredited by ACGME based on principles of reciprocity, and all training programs would need to meet the same requirements.
- The AOA and AACOM would become member organizations of ACGME and would have seats on the ACGME board, ensuring input into future accreditation standards discussions.
- All existing and future residency programs would be open to all M.D. and D.O. graduates.