By Jamie Johnson, WCI Contributor
As a practicing doctor, you may have considered joining some type of professional organization. These types of organizations can connect you to other physicians and provide access to ongoing training and support. One such organization is The American Osteopathic Association (AOA). An AOA membership comes with a variety of benefits, but it gets progressively more expensive the further you get into your career.
Before joining, it’s worth it to take the time to find out how an AOA membership works, the costs, and what you get for signing up. This information will help you figure out whether an AOA membership is worth the cost. Here's what to consider.
What Is an AOA Membership?
The AOA is a professional organization for more than 168,000 practicing osteopathic physicians and medical students. The organization was founded in 1897 and is headquartered in Chicago.
The AOA is also the main certifying body for doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) and the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools. The AOA works to promote public health and encourage ongoing scientific research. The AOA's vision is to aspire “to be the ‘North Star' of the osteopathic profession by advancing the interests of osteopathic physicians and students and promoting excellence in patient care consistent with the distinctive osteopathic philosophy.”
The organization also advocates at the state and federal levels on issues affecting osteopathic physicians and their patients. When you join the AOA, you’re connected to a network of other physicians and you gain access to other tools and benefits.
AOA Membership Rates
The cost of an AOA membership depends on where you are professionally—the annual rate is different for practicing doctors than it is for medical students. Here are the different membership categories you can choose from.
- Osteopathic medical students: Osteopathic medical students will receive a complimentary membership. You can fill out this online form to register for your AOA ID and to activate your membership.
- Interns, residents, and fellows: If you’re an intern, resident, or fellow, an annual membership costs $69.
- Osteopathic physicians: A standard one-year membership for physicians is $593, but there are exceptions if you're a new physician or a military physician:
- Year 1: $171
- Year 2: $341
- Year 3: $513
- Military physician: $513
- Retired DOs: If you’ve completely retired from your medical practice and aren’t employed, a one-year membership is $104.
- Allied members: Allied members pay $463 per year in membership fees. An allied member is a physician who is licensed to practice in the US and supports the AOA’s mission. Allied members can also be licensed healthcare providers who:
- Are currently employed with an active member of the AOA
- Contribute to that member’s practice
- Aren’t eligible for any other membership category
- Support the goals and objectives of the AOA
- Associate members: Associate members are non-DOs who either have a professional relationship with one or who are AOA affiliates. For these individuals, an annual membership is $104.
What Do You Get with an AOA Membership?
Here is an overview of what you receive as an AOA member.
One of the reasons that some people join the AOA is for the professional networking opportunities. When you become a member, you join a network of thousands of like-minded professionals. You’ll have many opportunities to collaborate and share ideas with other physicians.
Resources and Tools
Becoming an AOA member could make your job easier in certain ways. The organization provides numerous tools and resources aimed at helping physicians.
For instance, when you log into your AOA dashboard, you’ll see an up-to-date snapshot of your CME license and board status. You can also see a more detailed view of your CME Activity Report and review your board certification requirements. If you need assistance with documentation, medical coding, or issues with payment, you have access to the AOA’s Physician Services team.
As a member, you also have access to the AOA Member Value Program, which provides resources and discounts from dozens of industry leaders. For instance, OfficeMax gives AOA members an 80% discount on over 93,000 products.
If you’re interested in refinancing your student loans, you could receive a 0.25% discount with SoFi. And you can access dozens of other partnerships that will help you as you plan your career, practice, and life.
The AOA is constantly advocating on the behalf of physicians and their patients at the state and federal levels. For instance, if a DO or an osteopathic student is facing career barriers that are impacting their ability to receive training or licensure, the AOA will step in on their behalf. The organization also responds to media misinformation.
As an AOA member, you’ll receive free marketing opportunities. Since 2015, the organization has been running a campaign to educate the public on the benefits of DOs. You could also be connected to thousands of potential patients through the Find Your DO search.
AOA Membership vs. AMA Membership
The American Medical Association (AMA) is another organization available to physicians, resident physicians, and medical students. The AMA is more widely recognized than the AOA, and the annual dues are less expensive overall. When you join, you agree to comply with the AMA’s bylaws.
When you join the AMA, you receive access to the JAMA Network, which includes the print journal as well as an online and audio subscription. You’ll also receive the AMA’s daily briefing in your email inbox. And members can save money on insurance and other services.
Like the AOA, it’s probably worth joining when you’re a medical student since the costs are fairly low. Once you’ve been in practice several years, it’s a good idea to look at how much you actually use the membership. This will help you determine whether the annual fees are worth it.
Is an AOA Membership Worth It?
Depending on your situation and where you are in your career, the answer is: maybe. If you’re a current medical student, it’s definitely worth it to join since your membership is free. You can include the membership on your CV which looks good to potential employers.
If you’re an intern or in the early stages of building a practice, a discounted AOA membership could help you build your career. Just by being listed on the Find a DO search tool, you could be connected to patients you wouldn’t have found otherwise. Plus, an AOA membership is a great way to build your credibility.
However, once you’re more established in your career, you should consider how much you’re using the organization. Is an AOA membership bringing you more than $593 worth of value each year? If so, you probably should keep it, but if you feel that money is being wasted, you might want to re-think that expense.
But if being associated with like-minded doctors who, as noted by the AOA, “believe there's more to good health than the absence of pain or disease” and whose “whole-person approach to medicine focuses on prevention [and] helping promote the body's natural tendency toward health and self-healing,” is something that you'd like to be a part of, the membership very well could be worth it.
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