Stem the tide of ‘allopathic’ DOs
Thank you for the recent article about the proposed osteopathic medical school in Wisconsin. I am an osteopathic physician who graduated in 1989 from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg and have been practicing in Marietta, Ohio, for 23 years.
I have a traditional osteopathic practice wherein I treat all of my patients with osteopathic manipulation for a variety of disorders. I also teach some osteopathic skills and principles to DOs residents at a nearby emergency department.
Per today’s classification nomenclature, I “specialize” in osteopathic diagnosis and treatment. I do bill for patients who have Medicare, but otherwise I run a cash-based practice and do not accept private health insurance at all. I am busier than I can handle.
“What we are doing is basically turning out a bunch of DOs who are practicing allopathic medicine. They are not thinking osteopathically and they are not practicing osteopathic medicine.”
When I went to WVSOM, there were 15 osteopathic medical schools. I was one of the very few in my school who wanted to learn and practice true osteopathic medicine using osteopathic manipulation. During the first two years, I felt I had to go outside of our school to thoroughly learn practical skills in osteopathic manipulative medicine.
Now, there are 30-plus schools of osteopathic medicine cranking out thousands of DOs a year. Even fewer students today are well-taught in osteopathic principles and practice, and almost none of our DO graduates enter or start traditional osteopathic practices. There are many reasons for this, but it is nonetheless true.
I am appalled at the quality of the osteopathic residents I am teaching, who have virtually no skills in osteopathic palpatory diagnosis or manipulation or any historical or philosophical understanding of our heritage. But they are all passing the board exams.
So, what we are doing is basically turning out a bunch of DOs who are practicing allopathic medicine. They are not thinking osteopathically and they are not practicing osteopathic medicine. And yet we continue to propose and build more osteopathic medical schools and crank out those DOs who do nothing to further the principles that A.T. Still so valiantly set forth, practiced and taught more than 100 years ago.
That is my main concern. As far as I understand, there are only around 300 osteopathic physicians like me “specializing” in osteopathic diagnosis and treatment. The American Academy of Osteopathy and The Cranial Academy both have active but small memberships within the osteopathic family.
Massage therapists, physical therapists and chiropractors have promulgated and advanced many of the techniques that originated in and were traditionally taught in the osteopathic community. I recently reread about some of the struggles that the osteopathic medical profession went through in 1962, when California passed Proposition 22, which allowed osteopathic physicians to “purchase” MD degrees to make themselves “real doctors.” This was thought to be the beginning of a trend that would spread around the country and dissolve the osteopathic medical profession.
Our profession did not die. But to become more accepted, we have forgone our true roots, adopted all the characteristics of MDs, and almost totally forgotten our philosophical differences.
Why do we look to expand as a profession when we grow farther and farther from our historical significance? The only reason given in the article for establishing the proposed Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine is to produce more primary care physicians. That is not what osteopathic medicine is about.
I propose that we consolidate until we can teach true osteopathic medicine and really show the country why we are different from and better than regular MDs. That would be something to celebrate!
Lawrence M. Uhrig, DO
Dr. Uhrig specializes in osteopathic manipulative medicine.
The opinions expressed in “Letters to the Editor” are those of the authors and do not reflect the viewpoints of the editors or the official policy of the AOA.