AOA ophthalmology and otolaryngology program closures as a model to highlight challenges of maintaining GME in high need areas

Harris Ahmed, DO, MPH; Kim Vo, MS; and Wayne Robbins, DO
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: March 15, 2021

Accepted: September 21, 2021

Published: November 25, 2021

  • Harris Ahmed, DO, MPH, 

    Department of Ophthalmology, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA, USA

  • Kim Vo, MS, 

    College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, CA, USA

  • Wayne Robbins, DO, 

    Department of Otolaryngology, OhioHealth/Doctors Hospital, Columbus, OH, USA

J Osteopath Med; 122(2): 79-84

Context: While 90% of former American Osteopathic Association (AOA) residency programs transitioned to Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accreditation, surgical subspecialty programs such as ear, nose, and throat (ENT, 62%) and ophthalmology (47%) struggled to gain accreditation. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) actively participate in serving underserved communities, and the loss of AOA surgical specialty programs may decrease access to surgical care in rural and nonmetropolitan areas.

Objectives: To determine the challenges faced by former AOA-accredited surgical subspecialty programs during the transition to ACGME accreditation, particularly ENT and ophthalmology programs in underresourced settings.

Methods: A directory of former AOA ENT and Ophthalmology programs was obtained from the American Osteopathic Colleges of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AOCOO-HNS). A secured survey was sent out to 16 eligible ENT and ophthalmology program directors (PDs). The survey contained both quantitative and qualitative aspects to help assess why these programs did not pursue or failed to receive ACGME accreditation.

Results: Twelve of 16 eligible programs responded, com-prising six ophthalmology and six ENT PDs. Among the respondents, 83% did not pursue accreditation (6 ophthalmology and 4 ENT programs), and 17% were unsuccessful in achieving accreditation despite pursuing accreditation (2 ENT programs). Across 12 respondents, 7 (58%) cited a lack of hospital/administrative support and 5 (42%) cited excessive costs and lack of faculty support as reasons for not pursuing or obtaining ACGME accreditation.

Conclusions: The survey results reflect financial issues associated with rural hospitals. A lack of hospital/administrative support and excessive costs to transition to the ACGME were key drivers in closures of AOA surgical specialty programs. In light of these results, we have four recommendations for various stakeholders, including PDs, Designated Institutional Officials, hospital Chief Medical Officers, and health policy experts. These recommendations include expanding Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education to surgical subspecialties, identifying and learning from surgical fields such as urology that fared well during the transition to ACGME, addressing the lack of institutional commitment and the prohibitive costs of maintaining ACGME-accredited subspecialty programs in underresourced settings, and reconsidering the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) pool approach to physician reimbursement.

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