The National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, Inc. (NBOME), creator and sole administrator of the COMLEX-USA series of examinations required for licensure for osteopathic physicians in the United States and multiple international jurisdictions, recently released its annual report. Among the highlights in the newest report, titled “Agility”, is a focus on student wellness.
The report noted a high level of stress for students at both DO- and MD-granting medical schools.
“While this stress is multifactorial and was certainly heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the overuse of COMLEX-USA numerical scores (and USMLE scores) has been criticized as contributing to untenable stressors for today’s medical students,” researchers wrote.
Focus on student wellness led to a landmark decision by the NBOME board to discontinue numeric scores for the COMLEX-USA Level 1 examination starting in May 2022, switching instead to a pass/fail result. The move echoes the same change made to the USMLE Step 1, set to take effect in January. Other student advocacy moves by the NBOME include:
- Changes to the COMLEX-USA Level 2-CE exam that reduced some of the time pressures brought on by pandemic-related scheduling and social distancing requirements;
- Nixing planned fee increases that had been announced prior to the COVID-19 outbreak as well as all rescheduling fees;
- Efforts to communicate with residency program directors that applicants should not be held accountable for not having Level 2 PE exam results due to the pandemic;
- Supported decisions to temporarily modify graduation requirements related to the pandemic and Level 2-PE in June;
- Collaborated on the launch of the 2021 Residency Explorer Tool that provides MD and DO residency applicants a way to research individual residency programs and compare themselves to applicants who previously matched at those programs;
- Expanded the digital Residency Match Resources area of its website;
- Advocated to eliminate biased language in surveys that contributed to systemic disadvantages and perceptions for DO applicants to ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) programs;
- And launched its Road to DO Licensure microsite filled with information about the path to licensure and preparing for licensure exams while maintaining physical and mental well-being.
One point of celebration in 2020 is an unprecedented number of osteopathic medical students and graduates who obtained residency and fellowship training matches – the largest match on record for the National Resident Matching Program with more than 40,000 applicants applying to positions in 5,048 programs nationwide. Among the applicants were a record number of DO seniors – a 20 percent increase over 2019. Taking all residency matches and programs into account for the Class of 2020, there was a record 99.3% all-in placement rate for US DO seniors, an increase from both 2018 and 2019.
“NBOME continues to advocate for DO students and residents and their distinctive qualifications,” the report reads. “We call for enhancements to the residency application process and transition to residency training. We believe in the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion both for eliminating racial injustices and systemic biases in medical education, training, and patient care. These remain critically important as we work together to support the wellness of all.”