AOA-SOMA Joint Position on the “Fair Access in Residency Act”

This communication is in response to recent inquiries as to the AOA’s position on the newly introduced bill, H.R. 8850, the “Fair Access in Residency (FAIR) Act.” The AOA has been publicly silent to date in deference to the crafters of the proposed legislation and those in support of it. However, with the proposed legislation’s introduction to Congress last week, the AOA has been asked for its position. Similarly, SOMA has also been asked for its position on this proposed legislation.

Although the AOA and SOMA are independently incorporated organizations, our perspectives on this issue are perfectly aligned. The AOA and SOMA would like to provide the following joint statement which represents the positions of both organizations.

As evidenced by both organizations’ current and prior private and public efforts, we clearly and strongly support parity for osteopathic medical students. In particular, AOA and SOMA advocate for changes that will eliminate the undue mental health and financial burdens experienced by osteopathic medical students who feel they must take the USMLE examination in addition to the COMLEX-USA licensure examination and for fair and equal opportunity for osteopathic medical students to compete for residency training positions. With SOMA leading the way, championing the interests of osteopathic medical students, the AOA also advocates for such parity and will continue to do so.

We applaud the sentiment of the bill. However, the AOA and SOMA would prefer to find a non-legislative solution within the UGME and GME stakeholder communities to achieve parity for osteopathic medical students.

The undergraduate medical education (UGME) to graduate medical education (GME) transition under the newly created single accreditation GME system undoubtedly enjoys benefit, but also has realized unintended consequences with osteopathic medical student interests and concerns not being fully addressed. Although the initial 5-year operational transition to a single accreditation GME system was completed on June 30, 2020, the cultural evolution of this system will and must continue so that osteopathic (DO) medical students and trainees are fully and equally welcomed into the system, similar to their allopathic (MD) colleagues.

Our approach has been to work with our colleagues and leadership of all stakeholder organizations to finalize the creation of a system that works for all. Such cultural evolution requires some degree of patience, but also true collaboration.

The AOA opposes legislative interference not only with the patient-physician relationship, but also in areas of self-regulation. Legislative solutions that defer self- regulation to lawmakers will likely result in unintended consequences and the potential loss of independence and oversight that the medical community rightfully has over graduate medical education.

We have made great strides in recent years and the osteopathic community has been welcomed into the ACGME community. More work is to be done and every stakeholder organization we have worked with or spoken to is committed to finalizing that assimilation.

To that end, the AOA calls for a summit of the UGME and GME stakeholder communities to identify and address the fine points of the finalization of the single accreditation system with respect to osteopathic medical student interests.

Further, the AOA and SOMA feel that any efforts to address osteopathic medical student concerns should be conducted with the direct participation of osteopathic medical student organizations, and especially, the Student Osteopathic Medical Association.

Ernest R. Gelb, DO, FACOFP
AOA President

Courtney Merlo, OMS IV
SOMA National President

Kevin M. Klauer, DO, EJD
AOA Chief Executive Officer