May 10, 2010
601 E. St. NW
Washington, DC 20049
The April AARP Bulletin features a map showing the number of students who graduated from medical schools in each state in 2008. While it is clear there is a need to increase the number of physicians being trained in this country, the graphic completely ignores the fact that there were more than 3,300 graduates of osteopathic medical schools that same year.
One clear example is in the state of Maine. According to the graphic, there were no medical school graduates in that state in 2008. However, 128 osteopathic medical students graduated from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine (UNECOM) in Biddeford, Maine that year. Since 1978, UNECOM has been producing osteopathic physicians (DOs) who—with their MD counterparts—are fully qualified physicians licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery. In fact, UNECOM graduates make up 15% of Maine’s primary care physician workforce.
Since 2006, five new osteopathic medical schools have opened their doors to train new physicians. These medical schools are well positioned to help remedy the projected physician shortage by bringing health care services to some of our nation’s traditionally underserved regions, including Appalachia, the Pacific Northwest and Harlem, N.Y. With increases in osteopathic medical school enrollment, it is projected that at least 100,000 DOs will be practicing by 2020.
Currently, DOs account for 10% of the total primary care physician population in the United States, and that number continues to increase each year, which is why it is crucial that publications such as the AARP Bulletin not ignore DOs and their contribution to increasing access to health care for patients in areas where it is needed most.
Larry A. Wickless, DO
American Osteopathic Association