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Would A.T. be disappointed?

January 15, 2007

Our UAAO chapter’s national rep Ashley has been publishes in Still Point again! Here is her article-

Historians like to tell us that Osteopathy was founded when A.T. Still lost several of his children when “modern medicine” was unable to cure their diseases. So he decided there must be a better way, studied his bones, and discovered Osteopathy. Soon, he was curing all sorts of ailments and it wasn’t too many years before he had opened a school and was teaching others what he had learned. There was even a time when KCOM quit teaching pharmacology, because osteopathic manipulation could cure anything. In 2007, things have changed. Walking to class every day we still see pictures of the “old doctor” with his students, his patients, and the bones he studied. Dr. Still made sure his students knew their anatomy and physiology, but there was a great emphasis on manipulative medicine. He knew that healing the form of the body would inevitably lead to the healing of the function.

But what about us? We, too, learn our anatomy and physiology, but also our pharmacology, and biochemistry, and microbiology, and…sometimes the list seems endless. We, too, learn manipulation. But ours is different somehow. We learn it joint by joint, dysfunction by dysfunction. When we finally learn how to react to a patient who simply says “my back hurts” it’s too late for many students. They’ve become disillusioned with manipulation and want nothing to do with it. We’re told that form and function are interrelated, but our heads are so full of other facts that ideas about form and function don’t really seem to stick. We’re told that many things can be treated without drugs or surgery, but we’re not always told what, and it’s hard for OMM specialists to compete with Clinician, MD, who shows up in class every day ready to teach us about common problems and what tests to run and drugs to give. The form of our practices will be a function of the way we were taught, and we are taught that there is a drug for everything (or at the very least, there’s one in Phase III Clinical Trials now).

We’ve all noticed a push towards problem-based learning. Applicants are now choosing schools because they have a problem-based curriculum. Everyone wants it integrated. It sounds like a fantastic thing, and I hope it is. To learn the problem-solving skills necessary for clinical practice at the same time you’re learning the anatomy sounds wonderful. But where does the manipulation come in? Will the clinicians actually be willing to mention Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy as a rational treatment modality? Orthopedist, DO refuses to even mention it in lecture. Clinician, MD, has no training in OMT. Only Scientist, PhD and OMM Specialist, DO ever really talk about it. So how can we effectively teach manipulation when we have limited time per case and the administration thinks it’s more important to learn pathophysiology and pharmacology than to develop our palpatory skills? We seem to be stuck with faculty who want to teach us what’s going to be on the boards, not what’s going to help our patients the most. Every day in class we hear “this will be on boards” but we rarely ever hear “this will make your patient feel better while they heal” or “this will help them heal faster”. We all want to pass the COMLEX, but most of us didn’t come to medical school to do well on exams. We came to learn to heal people, or at the very least, to make the disease process less painful. OMT can do that for a patient, but only if their doctor has been taught the how, why, and when of treatment. Without that knowledge, we are no different from our allopathic colleagues, and we deny our heritage.

As Osteopathy has progressed, it’s made incredible strides. From being used by one doctor in rural Missouri to being used world-wide, and with American practitioners being granted full practice rights in any hospital, the growth and acceptance has been incredible. But we’ve worked so hard to prove that we’re real doctors, we now risk losing what makes us different. Still was right when he determined that there had to be a better way. He found it and passed it on to us. The changes it has made in the lives of “incurable” patients have been remarkable. As the bearers of the knowledge of Osteopathy, it’s our responsibility to ensure that it doesn’t get lost, and that patients will always have access to an Osteopath who understands that to improve the function of their body, in whole or in part, all that is needed is a simple restoration of form.

Personal Note: 50min cardio intervals & strength training vs Ruby Tuesday’s

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