AOA President Visits LECOM Erie

LECOM medical students have many questions about residency opportunities and how healthcare reform will affect them as future osteopathic physicians. They had a chance to get some of their questions answered by Karen Nichols, D.O., President of the American Osteopathic Association. Dr. Nichols visited the Erie campus May 3, and met with students, faculty members and administrators. She spoke to first and second year medical students about the changing healthcare system, graduate medical education and how the AOA can help them throughout their careers.

Karen Nichols, D.O., AOA President, talks to LECOM second-year students about a variety of issues that will affect them as physicians.

Dr. Nichols gave her take on healthcare reform. She said she believes the Affordable Care Act will give more people access to health care. However, she said the law included many new regulations that could make it more difficult for physicians to provide quality health care. Dr. Nichols said there are also concerns that physicians will not be properly compensated for providing services to patients. “Things need to be changed in our healthcare delivery,” Dr. Nichols said. “In many cases the law just put in more roadblocks created by people who are not physicians and have never seen a patient. They don’t realize the unintended consequences of some of their decisions.”

First-year LECOM student Chris Kaczmarczyk was one of fifteen student government and club leaders who attended a private luncheon and discussion with Dr. Nichols. “As student leaders we were able to voice our concerns and ask questions that we’ve heard in our clubs from other students,” Kaczmarczyk said. He asked Dr. Nichols about healthcare reform, and was reassured when she told him that the AOA and American Medical Association (AMA) cooperated with each other to make lawmakers aware of physicians’ concerns.
Chris Kaczmarczyk listens intently to Karen Nichols, D.O., during a private luncheon. Kaczmarczyk was one of 15 student government and club leaders to get a private audience with Nichols, the AOA President.
Dr. Nichols also told students one of her goals as AOA President has been to increase the number of osteopathic graduate medical education (GME) residency opportunities. “We’re in a situation where we don’t have as many osteopathic residency programs as we have graduates,” Dr. Nichols explained. “We will graduate 4,200 new D.O.s in May and June, and we have about 3,200 first-year osteopathic positions. This fall we’re matriculating 5,857 new first-years and so we have got to significantly ramp up our number of positions.”

Dr. Nichols said she has challenged every specialty to increase their osteopathic residency positions by fifteen percent every year. She has also changed how the AOA handles graduate medical education issues by elevating the committee of osteopathic graduate medical education to a bureau that reports directly to AOA leaders. Dr. Nichols said the goal of the AOA is to have a sufficient number of osteopathic residency positions available for all graduates by 2017. “We’re not meeting our obligation as a profession if we don’t have GME opportunities,” she said.

Dr. Nichols is visiting every college of osteopathic medicine in the United States during her tenure as AOA President. LECOM Erie was the 27th school on her list of 29 campuses. She said she wants future osteopathic physicians to know about the AOA and think of the organization as their family. Her effort impressed Kaczmarczyk. “I think that it’s great that she’s taking the time to visit every single college of osteopathic medicine and to meet with students, not just administrators,” he said.


The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and LECOM School of Pharmacy offer innovative and affordable education in osteopathic medicine and pharmacy. From campuses in Erie, Pennsylvania, Greensburg, Pennsylvania and Bradenton, Florida, LECOM provides student-centered pathways to prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals. Prepare yourself for medicine as your life’s profession.

May 4, 2011
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