An overarching goal in the single GME accreditation system is to maximize access to GME opportunities and options for all osteopathic medical students and graduates. It will allow osteopathic medical students to apply for programs in specialties of their choice. It will increase recognition of osteopathic medicine and bring our unique health care to a wider audience.
The AOA and ACGME are acutely aware that moving to a single GME accreditation program creates uncertainty for DO and MD students and residents who will be training during the transition. Both organizations agree that protecting students and residents is paramount.
The AOA is committed to helping all students and trainees navigate the evolving system. Please feel free to contact the AOA at singleGME@osteopathic.org for assistance. In addition, AACOM has published a comprehensive list of Student FAQs that provide additional information.
A student webinar "Navigating the Single GME Accreditation System" will take place at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. Education leaders will inform osteopathic medical students about the transition to the single graduate medical education accreditation system. Register today.
Nine ACGME specialty programs have indicated that they will accept AOA PGY1 year for entry into those programs. Language issued by the Review Committees states that, during the transition to a single accreditation system, programs may wish to consider applicants from AOA-approved programs that are not yet pre-accredited or accredited by the ACGME. Core programs will not jeopardize their accreditation status if they accept such applicants. Read the exact language from the ACGME RCs on this topic.
Jan. 11: The ACGME announced that many fellowships will now accept the COMLEX-USA examination on equal footing with the USMLE. This change is specifically related to the "exceptionally qualified candidate" provision included in the ACGME's new Common Program Requirements. If an individual applies to a fellowship program based on this provision and has successfully completed Levels 1, 2 and 3 of COMLEX-USA, he/she will not be required to take the USMLE. The ACGME will be issuing guidelines to assist fellowship program directors in determining whether individual applicants are eligible for appointment. Eligibility criteria for every ACGME-accredited subspecialty can be reviewed on the ACGME’s website.
Protecting Students & Trainees
New standards help ensure residents will complete their training in an accredited training program. AOA-accredited programs that have not entered into the ACGME accreditation process cannot accept a resident if the resident’s expected training completion date is after the AOA ceases its accreditation functions on June 30, 2020). For example, a 3-year program not applying for ACGME accreditation could not accept new residents after July 1, 2017, because the resident’s graduation date would be after the end of the transition period, when that program’s AOA accreditation would cease.
The AOA also has taken steps to protect residents in AOA programs that may have trouble achieving ACGME accreditation. Programs that have continued pre-accreditation status for 2 full years and have trainees that cannot complete their training by June 30, 2020, must work with their OPTI and sponsoring institution to develop and submit a plan for the potential transfer all trainees to an ACGME-accredited program.
DO graduates of AOA programs that have pre-accredited status will be treated as graduates of ACGME-accredited programs when applying to advanced ACGME residencies and fellowships. DOs seeking fellowship spots during the transition will be eligible for ACGME fellowships provided that their AOA program has been awarded pre-accreditation status and the applicant meets the other existing requirements of the individual fellowships. The recently revised common program requirements, which would have prevented DOs with AOA training from entering advanced standing ACGME residencies and fellowships, will be moot under the new system for residents training in AOA programs with ACGME pre-accreditation status. Residents are encouraged to consult with their program directors, mentors and osteopathic specialty colleges regarding which fellowship programs may be most receptive to their applications.
Update on the Match
The AOA Match is occurring in 2016 and the foreseeable future. It will cease when all AOA-accredited training programs become ACGME-accredited, presumably on or before June 30, 2020. Until that time, the AOA Match will continue to match DO graduates into AOA-accredited programs.
AOA-accredited programs will not be able to participate in the National Residency Match Program (NRMP) match until they have received Initial Accreditation by the ACGME. Programs with pre-accreditation status are still approved by the AOA, and prospective residents still have to go through the NMS match.
Once all programs are considered ACGME-accredited after the transition is complete, it is likely there ultimately will be one Match.
The Value of COMLEX
Throughout the transition, COMLEX-USA will continue to be the valid examination for DO competency assessment for licensure. It is also required by COCA accreditation standards as a requirement for graduation from all colleges of osteopathic medicine. Thus, osteopathic medical students will continue to be required to pass the COMLEX-USA examination (Levels 1 and 2) in order to graduate from an osteopathic medical school.
While COMLEX is first and foremost a licensure examination, residency program directors also use it to assess applicants to their programs. The AOA, AACOM, and the NBOME are escalating efforts to help ACGME residency program directors understand and interpret COMLEX-USA scores.
It is important to note that neither the COMLEX-USA nor the USMLE exams are specifically required by ACGME accreditation standards for residency program application or acceptance. We expect that, in the vast majority of cases, COMLEX-USA will be increasingly recognized by ACGME-accredited residency program directors in the single GME accreditation system. Program directors are generally enthusiastic to learn more about COMLEX-USA and osteopathic medicine. However, there are still some ACGME programs that will prefer to see a USMLE score. If a student has aspirations for such programs, then that student will have to make the decision about whether to take the USMLE in addition to the COMLEX.