Letters to the Editor  |   August 2006
AOA Certifying Boards Are Credible and Capable
Author Affiliations
    G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology University of Mississippi School of Medicine Jackson, Miss
    Associate Chief of Staff for Mental Health
Article Information
Medical Education / Graduate Medical Education
Letters to the Editor   |   August 2006
AOA Certifying Boards Are Credible and Capable
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, August 2006, Vol. 106, 441. doi:
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, August 2006, Vol. 106, 441. doi:
To the Editor:  
I read with great interest the letter by George Mychaskiw II, DO, in the May 2006 issue of JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association regarding his concerns about the current status of osteopathic graduate medical education (“Will the last DO turn off the lights?” 2006;106:252–253, 302). Being myself in a situation not dissimilar to that of Dr Mychaskiw, I feel compelled to relate my personal observations of some of the issues brought up in his letter. 
Regarding the validity of American Osteopathic Association (AOA) board certification, Dr Mychaskiw concludes that the opinion held by some MDs that AOA certifying boards are “`easier' and less credible” than Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) boards may be accurate. My own experience leads me to reach quite a different conclusion. My residencies in psychiatry and neurology were completed in allopathic programs and were approved by the AOA, so I was able to obtain certification in these fields by both the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) and the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry (AOBNP). I found the AOBNP examinations similar in content to—and at least as difficult as—the ABPN examinations in both psychiatry and neurology. In fact, for me, the AOBNP Part 2 oral examination in neurology was actually more difficult; I had to repeat this examination a few times to successfully complete it. (That was not my experience with the corresponding ABPN examination.) Thus, I believe that AOA certifying boards are fully capable of maintaining appropriate standards for certification. 
Unfortunately, Dr Mychaskiw's observation that AOA board certification is not universally accepted in the allopathic academic community does appear to be true. The allopathic medical schools with which I have had experience do not recognize certification by AOA boards, regardless of how good the training is in the AOA-approved residency programs. I believe this is probably true with allopathic schools in general. This lack of recognition creates a possible dilemma for some DOs who enter postdoctoral training programs wishing to pursue a career in academic medicine. 
Fortunately, there are a few signs that attitudes against osteopathic boards may be beginning to change. The number of DOs on faculty in allopathic schools I am familiar with has increased notably over the past 15 years. In addition, one can now frequently see authors with DO degrees in scientific and medical journals, and articles in the JAOA are cited in the National Library of Medicine's Index Medicus. Furthermore, many federal organizations, including the US Department of Veterans Affairs, recognize AOA board certification. At this point, however, a physician cannot use AOA board certification alone to procure a faculty position with most allopathic training programs. 
The number of DOs in allopathic residency programs continues to climb.1 It appears that the MD community has reached the point of accepting the fact that the colleges of osteopathic medicine can adequately train students to become qualified physicians. Hopefully, with time, osteopathic graduate medical education and board certification by AOA programs (which can be educationally equal to, and just as difficult as, ACGME programs) will be fully accepted as well. 
Brotherton SE, Rockey PH, Etzel SI. US graduate medical education, 2002–2003. JAMA.. (2003). ;290:1197 –1202.