WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) sent a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging the acting director of the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak to expand funding opportunities for research in osteopathic medicine. Osteopathic physicians have expertise in the musculoskeletal system and receive additional training in Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT), a hands-on technique and non-pharmacological solution to pain management. This type of treatment can serve as a non-addictive alternative to opioids. Increasing this focus at NIH would help address health disparities in rural and medically underserved populations and advance research in primary care, prevention, and treatment. It also helps address the nation’s doctor shortage — 58% of osteopathic medical schools are located in states with a shortage of medical professionals, including New Mexico, Mississippi, and Nevada.
“We are concerned about the historical disparity in NIH funding and representation for
[Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (COMs)]”, write the senators.
Osteopathy is the fastest growing medical field in the country, and 38 osteopathic medical schools nationwide currently train nearly 34,000 doctors, or 25% of all American medical students. Unfortunately, osteopathic medical schools receive only 0.1% of NIH grants, compared to 40% for allopathic schools.
In the letter, lawmakers outlined critical steps for NIH to increase research funding for COMs. This includes tips for:
- Establish a structured partnership with the osteopathic medical education community, including the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), which creates and executes a plan to increase NIH funding for COMs.
- Establish a program to incentivize COM Principal Investigators.
- Consider funding opportunities for research projects that integrate osteopathic philosophy and OMT.
- Increase representation of the osteopathic profession on NIH National Advisory Boards and Study Screeners.
“We encourage you and NIH leadership to meet with relevant stakeholders to discuss the issues outlined in this letter. We thank you for your attention to this important issue and we look forward to hearing more about your efforts to advance funding and advocacy opportunities for osteopathic medicine,” conclude the senators.
The lawmakers’ letter is supported by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM).
“For decades, the NIH has overlooked the world-class research conducted at colleges of osteopathic medicine,” said Dr. Robert A. Cain, President and CEO of AACOM.
“Increasing funding for osteopathic medical research will help our country in its efforts to address health disparities in rural and underserved populations, allow us to better understand the COVID-19 pandemic, and advance the quality of treatment in primary care and beyond.”
Alongside Senators Cramer, Wicker and Heinrich are Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Kelly (D-AZ) Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), James Inhofe (R -OK), James Lankford (R-OK) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).
Click here to read the letter.