Accreditation Standards of Osteopathic and Allopathic Medical Schools: Could They Affect Educational Quality?

Wood, Douglas L. DO, PhD; Hahn, Marc B. DO

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181a8c296
Osteopathic Medicine and Medical Education

Accreditation of medical schools in the United States is the province of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) for MD-granting schools, and the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) for DO-granting schools. One of the functions of accreditation is to provide medical schools an opportunity for critical self-analysis, which leads to improvement in quality. In some quarters, there are perceptions that the quality of osteopathic education, and therefore the graduates of DO medical schools, are of a lower quality than is the case with MD schools. To examine that assertion, the authors delved into certain aspects of accreditation across the two professions, particularly the structure of the two accrediting bodies, as well as a comparative analysis of certain select accreditation standards, to determine whether these elements demonstrate any differences that could lead to educational quality dissimilarities.

The basic structures of the two accrediting bodies are functionally similar except in the way the members are chosen. Also, the LCME has student representation and COCA does not. However, the authors did not think these differences have significant quality implications. In the areas of governance, the major difference is that a for-profit osteopathic school has now been approved, while the relevant LCME standard states that a medical school should be not-for-profit unless there are extraordinary and justifiable circumstances that preclude full compliance with the standard.

Relative to academic environment, LCME standards are more expansive, possibly leading to environments where that may enhance student learning. Comparative analysis of several other standards demonstrates some variation, but not enough to conclude that accreditation is a factor in any quality issues across the two professions.

Dr. Wood is dean, School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona, Mesa, Arizona.

Dr. Hahn, at the time this article was written, was senior vice president for health affairs and dean, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, Texas. He is now Scholar-in-Residence at both the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, Chevy Chase, Maryland, and the Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Wood, SOMA, 5850 E Still Circle, Mesa, AZ 85206; telephone: (480) 219-6052; fax: (480) 219-6159; e-mail: (

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges