American Osteopathic Association Installs First Female President

CHICAGO, (July 17, 2010) /PRNewswire/ — Not one to back down from a challenge, Karen J. Nichols, DO, embraces her term as the first female president of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) during a time of historic change in health care. The AOA installed her as its 114th president this afternoon during its annual business meeting in Chicago.

"The passage of health care reform earlier this year paves the way for more Americans to receive access to physicians' services," says Dr. Nichols, a resident of Oak Brook, Ill. "But there is still much work that lies ahead to improve our nation's health care delivery system."

One way Dr. Nichols, an AOA board-certified internal medicine physician, proposes improving access to care for patients is through the wide-spread implementation of the patient-centered medical home — a model of health care that places patients' needs first by creating an intimate and attentive setting for providing care. Dr. Nichols also hopes to see a permanent repeal of the sustainable growth rate formula for Medicare physician payment and an increase in the number of osteopathic residency and fellowship positions.

Dr. Nichols began her career as a medical technologist at Phoenix General Hospital. After serving as chief technologist and president of the Arizona Medical Technology Society, she sought her next career challenge by beginning medical school at age 28. Dr. Nichols earned her osteopathic medical degree at what is now the Kansas City (Mo.) University of Medicine and Biosciences College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed her internship and residency training at the former Oklahoma Osteopathic Hospital in Tulsa.

Following training, Dr. Nichols worked her way up to chief of staff at Mesa General Hospital in Arizona. During her tenure, she established end-of-life care guidelines after an elderly patient requested his physician turn off the ventilator keeping him alive.

"We didn't have any policies in place regarding end-of-life care," Dr. Nichols says. "There was nothing like this being taught at that time in any medical school."

After 17 years of treating patients, Dr. Nichols made another career change in 2002 when she became dean of the Midwestern University/Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in Downers Grove, Ill., which had 166 students in its 2010 graduating class. As dean, she encourages students to take an active role in their new profession.

"I tell my students what my grandfather told me: 'You can make a difference,'" Dr. Nichols says. "Osteopathic medicine is a growing profession where students and DOs can have an impact."

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 70,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs); promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical colleges; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.