There has been a steady increase in the number of osteopathic (DO) medical students in the United States without a corresponding increase in DO representation in competitive specialties.
To investigate the trends and impact of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) single accreditation system on DO match rates into dermatology and other competitive specialty programs.
Information was collected through public databases (Electronic Residency Application Service [ERAS]; National Resident Matching Program [NRMP]; Association of American Medical Colleges [AAMC]; National Match Service, Inc. [NMS]; and the ACGME) to evaluate the match statistics of competitive specialties, including dermatology, otolaryngology, orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, and plastic surgery. Residency program and medical school websites and residency communications were used to confirm whether the match placements were to programs that had traditionally been ACGME-accredited or former American Osteopathic Association (AOA) programs.
From 2012 to 2016 (pre-unification), osteopathic graduates comprised only 0.5% of the matches the specific specialties studied here and only 0.9% of ACGME dermatology positions. Post-unification (2017-2019), DOs comprised 2.0% of the matches into these specialties and 4.4% of the total ACGME dermatology positions. This apparent increase is misleading, as it is solely due to the transition of formerly AOA programs to ACGME status. The true post-unification DO match rate to traditionally ACGME programs is actually 0.6% for all competitive specialties and 0.4% for dermatology. Post-unification, 27.6% of formerly AOA positions in these competitive specialties were filled by allopathic (MD) applicants.
DO match rates into dermatology and other competitive specialties were poor prior to GME unification and continue to remain low. This situation, when coupled with the closing of many AOA programs and MDs matching into former AOA positions, threatens the future of osteopathic physicians in competitive specialties. Osteopathic recognition is one way to potentially help preserve osteopathic representation and philosophy in the single accreditation system era. Programs should not be hesitant to consider osteopathic applicants for competitive specialties.