American Osteopathic Association (AOA) has appointed Karen Nichols as the first female president.

Dr Nichols, an AOA board-certified internal medicine physician, 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.

Dr Nichols, following training, 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.

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, Illinois. As dean, she encourages students to take an active role in their new profession.

Dr Nichols said: “The passage of health care reform earlier this year paves the way for more Americans to receive access to physicians’ service. But there is still much work that lies ahead to improve our nation’s health care delivery system.

“We didn’t have any policies in place regarding end-of-life care. There was nothing like this being taught at that time in any medical school.”