DO Board Certification

J. Michael Wieting, D.O., FAOCPMR-D, FAAOE Senior Associate Dean
Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Professor of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine
Lincoln Memorial University
DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine
Office: 423.869.7148 | Fax: 423.869.7078
Cell: 865.279.1358
6965 Cumberland Gap Parkway, Harrogate, TN 37752


     As we move closer to the single accreditation system for graduate medical education (residency  and fellowship programs), it is important that we remember a few critical things regarding accreditation of postgraduate training and board certification.

    First, regarding accreditation of residency and fellowship training: the single accreditation system, slated to begin in 2020, will be under the auspices of the ACGME with a newly constituted ACGME in which the AOA has significant involvement at all levels. Accreditation authority will transfer from the AOA to the new ACGME for all programs except for an anticipated very small number of programs for whom it will be determined will not, for whatever reason, complete the transition to ACGME from AOA accreditation. In those cases, the AOA will retain accreditation authority long enough to allow residents or fellows in those programs to complete the program and graduate from a fully accredited program.

    Second, regarding board certification: Both AOA and ABMS board certification are markers of quality for patients, payors, employers, insurers, regulators, and others and demonstrate excellence, continual professional development, reinforcement of initial training and enhancement of knowledge and skills for the duration of a physician's career. The AOA has been involved with board certification since the 1930s and its 18 certification boards, which provide  29 primary specialty and 77 subspecialty certifications, are recognized equally with ABMS board certification for purposes of  payor qualifications, CMS, legal recognition, credentialing, government recognition,  use by the US military, state licensing authorities,  etc. AOA certification is, unlike that of ABMS, designed by practicing physicians for practicing physicians. There is not any limitation in the scope of practice for our  AOA certifications. While AOA may not have the full scope of certifications offered by ABMS, for those specialties and subspecialties which are in common between the two certification bodies, there is equal recognition.

   The ACGME’s board of directors, on which osteopathic physicians sit, has recognized that osteopathic graduates of ACGME residency programs may take osteopathic (AOA) board certification exams and has instructed all its Review Committees (which determine  accreditation standards for  postgraduate education programs in all specialties and subspecialties for the ACGME) to propose language regarding board certification requirements to include AOA certifying board pass rates to accommodate its pass rate expectations. The ACGME currently monitors pass rates for ABMS board exams and will do so as well for AOA board exams. Programs in which some or all graduates take the applicable AOA certification exams will not receive citations or be adversely impacted on the basis of non-compliance with not meeting first time pass rate expectations as may have occurred in the past. The newly constituted ACGME believes that the goal of accredited residency education is to produce physicians, MD or DO, who seek and achieve board certification, recognizing that some graduates will be eligible for both exams and will have the freedom to choose which exam to take. This expectation will be addressed and included in the Common Program Requirements at the time of the next major revision.