The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Joplin Metro

December 25, 2009

Fired medical school president had been pushing big changes

The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The recently fired president of a Kansas City osteopathic medical school had been promoting a change that some feared jeopardized the independence of the entire profession.

Karen Pletz had said in a widely distributed e-mail that the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences was looking into offering students the opportunity to become a doctor of osteopathy and a medical doctor at the same time.

The Kansas City Star reported that no other osteopathic school confers dual D.O.-M.D. degrees.

Two days before her Dec. 18 termination, a group of current and former leaders of the American Osteopathic Association who are alumni of KCUMB sent Pletz a letter asking that any dual D.O.-M.D. proposal be abandoned.

Critics had said that the combined degree could raise questions about the continued independence of the field of osteopathy, which emphasizes holistic care and employs manipulation techniques somewhat similar to those of chiropractic medicine. They said other osteopathic medical schools also would be forced to offer M.D. degrees if Pletz’s plan were adopted.

Pletz has declined to discuss her firing with The Star, saying a lawsuit was in the works.

But Pletz wrote in the e-mail that the combined D.O.-M.D. degree would have been designed to advance future students’ educational and career opportunities. It was being explored as a way to “ensure that the future of osteopathic medical education remains viable in the face of a number of serious concerns.”

Those challenges have included a proliferation of osteopathic programs and the closure of many osteopathic hospitals. Some fear that M.D. students will get picked over D.O. students for limited residency spots.

George Mychaskiw, an anesthesiologist at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine and an American Osteopathic Association health policy fellow, said offering a dual D.O.-M.D. degree would be fraught with issues Pletz may not have fully appreciated.

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