U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.) today introduced legislation to remove barriers and inequities from federally funded physician residency programs. The bipartisan Fair Access to Residence Act (FAIR)which is strongly supported by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) as well as the University of New England College of Medicine (UNECOM), aims to achieve parity in Medicare-funded graduate medical education (GME) programs that frequently exclude or impose restrictive requirements on doctors of osteopathic medicine (OD).
“As one of the fastest growing healthcare professions in the country, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine provide essential care in our communities, especially in rural and underserved areas. It is ridiculous that osteopathic medical students face discrimination and additional barriers in accessing federally funded residency programs. The just law will help ensure greater accountability of these programs,” said Pingree. “I’m proud that so many dedicated DOs are being trained in Maine and across the country. We should help them serve patients without unnecessary barriers, which is exactly what this legislation aims to do. »
“I am proud to help lead legislation that has the ability to transform accessibility to DDs across the country and strengthen our physician pipeline, especially in rural and underserved areas. It is more important than ever that we ensure that our taxpayer-funded residency training programs equally deploy all of the best talent of tomorrow’s physicians and specialists, from both DO and MD backgrounds,” said Harshbarger. “This bill is an important step toward transparency and equality in our taxpayer-funded GME programs, with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of trained physicians and serving our communities.”
“We appreciate the efforts of Representatives Harshbarger, Pingree and Graves to address the unfair barriers and discrimination that students of osteopathic medicine face when applying for federally funded residency training,” said AACOM President and CEO Robert A. Cain, DO. “Ensuring that students of osteopathic medicine have an equitable path to residency not only reflects the spirit of the unique accreditation, which was designed to increase access to residency programs for DOs and physicians, but it also addresses the persistent and widespread prejudice against osteopathic medical students, many of whom will go on to care for patients in rural and medically underserved communities. We also thank our counterpart organizations for their support of this vital bill.
“While our partners in Maine have always been supportive of UNE osteopathic medical students, the same is not true in other parts of the country,” said Jane Carreiro, dean of the UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine “Outside of Maine, UNE COM students have encountered obstacles to residency, including exclusion from rotations or interviews, and the requirement to take the MD (USMLE) licensing exam which is not not required for DO license, added expense and stress. The FAIR Act will remove these barriers for osteopathic medical students and bring us closer to addressing the medical workforce shortage across the country.”
The just law requires that federally funded CMM programs:
- Report annually the number of residency applicants from allopathic and osteopathic medical schools and how many of these applicants have been accepted into each respective type of school and;
- Affirm annually that they accept applicants from osteopathic and allopathic medical schools, and that if an exam score is required for acceptance, COMLEX and USMLE licensing exams will also be accepted.
Osteopathic medicine is one of the fastest growing health professions in the United States, and colleges of osteopathic medicine now educate 25% of all medical students. DOs serve the health needs of our nation, prioritize primary care specialties, and practice in rural and underserved areas at particularly high rates. The distribution of physicians is influenced by location of training, and more than 73% of DOs practice in the state where they do their residency. Unnecessary and unfair residency requirements negatively impact the distribution of physicians, leading to disparities in access to health care.
According to data from the National Resident Matching Program, 36% of residency program directors never or rarely interview DO applicants. Additionally, the American Medical Association’s Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database Access shows that 32% of residency programs require osteopathic medical students to pass the MD licensing exam, even though the DO licensing exam grants physicians unlimited practice rights in all 50 states.