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The NBOME Historical Heroes

It is a happy coincidence that as the osteopathic profession celebrates NOM Week 2024, the NBOME is also celebrating its 90th anniversary. At its formation in 1934, the NBOME (then called the National Board of Examiners for Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons, or NBEOPS) sought to create a national competency examination with high standards that was acceptable to all jurisdictions and that assessed competencies and content important to and accepted by the osteopathic medical profession.

Since then, the NBOME has been working tirelessly to ensure patient safety through fair, valid, and rigorous assessments by which osteopathic physicians must meet a national standard of knowledge and skill. Here, we highlight just a few of the people who helped shape the NBOME into what it is today. Please check back as we continue to add more important people to this list throughout the year.



Prior to the NBEOPS formation, medical licensure varied widely; each state had its own medical practice acts and individual examinations.

The three founders of the NBEOPS–Charles Hazzard, DO, Arthur G. Hildreth, DO, and Asa Willard, DO–recognized the critical need for a profession to self-regulate, to assure practice rights for DOs based on osteopathic competencies, and to assure patient trust in this growing distinct profession within health care in the United States.

Each of these men were educated directly by our profession’s founder, AT Still, DO, at the American School of Osteopathy (ASO; now A.T. Still University/Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine), and each of them held national leadership positions at the American Osteopathic Association.



Hazzard served as the NBEOPS’ first president and would go on to  serve on the New York State Board of Medical Examiners. He also authored the widely used texts, The Principles of Osteopathy and The Practice of Osteopathy and was treasurer of the AT Still Research Institute for many years.



Willard was the first secretary-treasurer of the NBEOPS and was a tireless promoter of full rights for osteopathic physicians. He was also a prolific author, publishing several regular columns in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (now the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine).



Hildreth was also a staunch advocate for professional self-regulation and independent licensure for DOs, based on examinations designed for DOs and osteopathic medical practice.

These three men fought the discriminatory practices that limited DOs from practicing and the profession from growing, ensuring professional self-regulation, and ultimately, garnering trust among other physicians, patients and other stakeholders over the ensuing 90 years.




William G. Anderson, DO was a prolific figure in the Civil Rights Movement, advocating alongside the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy.

He has also been a driving force in the osteopathic profession, and the NBOME. Anderson served on the Board of Directors from 2003-2014 and received the Santucci Award, the highest honor the NBOME bestows, in 2016.

What follows is an excerpt about Anderson from In The Public Trust: The History of NBOME 1934-2009, published in honor of the NBOME’s 75th anniversary:

Dr. Anderson is best-known for his civil rights work and as the first African-American president of the AOA, 1994-95. He was born in Americus, Georgia in 1927, and attended the Des Moines College of Osteopathic Medicine. He served as associate dean of the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine and a clinical professor of osteopathic surgery at Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, yet when he returned to Albany, Georgia, in 1957, he was prevented from treating patients because of segregationist policies. He responded by becoming the founder and first president of the Albany Movement, which worked to register African-American voters and devised ways to end racial segregation, getting the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Anderson is a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He writes:

“As one of the newest members of the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, I am constantly challenged and rewarded as I learn more and more about how this outstanding organization works. I am proud to be a part of a process that assures the public that only the well-qualified physicians will be recommended for licensure.

“The long hours and days of deliberation on how to make the examinations credible and valid are rewarded by producing examinations that can withstand the most critical scrutiny and analysis and meet the objectives and mission of the NBOME.

“The very competent staff of the NBOME makes it the finest testing organization in the country. Working with them is a pleasure, and their efforts to continually improve serve as a stimulus and challenge to me as well as the other board members.”

Six of Dr. Anderson’s children and grandchildren have become DOs.



At just 28 years old, Margaret Barnes, DO, was the first person to take—and pass—the National Board of Examiners for Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons’ (now the NBOME) exam. She received high marks on the exam.

Barnes and others who passed the exam were awarded a Diplomate of the National Board, a mark of prestige and professional proficiency. By passing the exam, Barnes was the first to demonstrate at a national level competency in areas most important to and accepted by the osteopathic profession.

Barnes would go on to serve for several years as the editor of the yearbook of selected osteopathic papers for the Academy of Applied Osteopathy (now the American Academy of Osteopathy, or AAO). Her home served as the AAO main office in California during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1951, she received the Distinguished Award in Pediatrics from the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians.

Barnes later wrote the first history of the AAO, titled, “History of the Academy of Applied Osteopathy” and “A Fortieth Anniversary Memoir.” These were published in the American Osteopathic Association’s The DO in 1972 and 1978, respectively.



Janice A. Knebl, DO, MBA, began her service to the NBOME as an item writer in the late 1980s, becoming a Level 2 Test Review Committee participant and chair
during the 1990s. She was appointed to the NBOME Board of Directors in 1999, elected to the Executive Committee in 2003, and served two terms as Board Secretary-Treasurer from 2005-2009 during which she drove the development of enhanced policies and procedures for the Finance Committee. From 2011 to 2013, she served as NBOME Board Chair.

Knebl oversaw the creation of and chaired the Blue Ribbon Panel, which was established to perform a comprehensive review and strategic plan for the future of COMLEX-USA. The panel evaluated a plan to implement a two-decision point, competency-based COMLEX-USA, and to address opportunities to continue to enhance the licensing exam program. The conclusions and framework developed by the Blue Ribbon Panel were implemented in the COMLEX-USA Master Blueprint in 2018—still used today—and helped usher COMLEX-USA into its current form.

In 2015, Knebl received the Santucci Award, the NBOME’s highest honor awarded in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the NBOME and the advancement of the NBOME mission to protect the public. Knebl is a respected leader in treatment, research, and education related to Alzheimer’s and dementia and has also served as chair of the AOA Commission on Osteopathic Colleges Accreditation (COCA). She was named the 2020 American Osteopathic Foundation Physician of the Year in recognition of a career dedicated to improving the lives of patients, students, and caregivers.


To learn more about these heroes and many others over the past 90 years, visit nbome.org/timeline.