Last August, the Missouri House of Representatives announced a new process to pick the next member of its Hall of Famous Missourians. Members are usually chosen by the speaker of the house, but following complaints about the 2012 selection of a controversial political commentator, a new method was born: an online election open to all Missourians as well as anyone else who wished to vote.
The nominees included Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, as well as several politicians, a few musicians and an athlete. Dr. Still won the hall’s first-ever election with roughly 38% of the votes. He is the first physician chosen for the hall, which is housed inside the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City to memorialize the state’s favorite sons and daughters.
“This demonstrates a grassroots level of support for A.T. Still that transcends any one group of Missourians,” says Marc B. Hahn, DO, the president and CEO of the Kansas City (Mo.) University of Medicine and Biosciences College of Osteopathic Medicine. “In other words, he’s not just the popular choice among medical professionals or osteopathic physicians or elected officials. This represents a groundswell of popular support for Dr. Still, who folks feel truly embodies the values of our state.”
Dr. Still became the 42nd member of the hall last month, and a bronze bust of him now stands in the hall along with those of former President Harry S. Truman, Walt Disney, Sacajawea and Mark Twain, who himself was an advocate of osteopathic medicine and corresponded with A.T. Still.
Impressed by Dr. Still’s drive to develop osteopathic medicine as well as his abolitionist views and the ways he encouraged women to pursue medicine and treated poor patients for free, Brandon Crandall, the bust’s sculptor, said he wanted osteopathic medicine’s founder to appear both intrepid and genial.
“There’s a warmth in Dr. Still’s face, like you could talk to this man and he would never try to make you feel dumb because you don’t understand what he understands. He would just try to help you,” Crandall says. “I wanted the sculpture to be heroic, and for him to have a twinkle in his eye and the joviality of someone who makes you feel warm and comfortable.”
On April 16, Crandall and Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones unveiled the bust on the House floor to whistles and cheers from a room packed with osteopathic physicians, AOA leaders and students from KCUMB-COM and the A.T. Still University-Kirksville (Mo.) College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“I looked in the balcony, and I saw 250 students in their white coats from both schools,” says Jason Haxton, the director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville. “They literally filled the entire balcony on three sides. And then I looked out where all the representatives typically sit, and a third of the seats were taken up by A.T. Still’s descendants. There were international osteopaths, too. We filled the chamber.”
In her remarks, AOA CEO and Executive Director Adrienne White-Faines, MPA, highlighted Dr. Still’s visionary notions of treatment.
“We recognize now that Dr. Still’s legacy was truly a century before its time,” she said. “The U.S. health care system is evolving to embrace patient-centered care. … And osteopathic medicine embraces the concept of patient-centered care at its core.”
Likewise, Jones underlined the lasting impact of Dr. Still’s convictions.
“What was a radical idea at the very beginning when [Dr. Still] first brought it forth today is a tried and true path to better health and a better life for millions of people in all 50 states and in more than 60 countries around the globe,” he said. “And beyond the care directly provided by osteopathic physicians, we have seen the teachings of Dr. Still influence so many other areas of our lives as well. If you look at traditional medical schools, you now see them using holistic patient care models in their teachings as well.”
Five direct descendants of Dr. Still, including his great-great-grandson Richard H. Still III, DO, and a few dozen other relatives attended the induction.
“For the Missouri House to recognize A.T. Still and what he did is a big win for the profession,” says Dr. Richard Still, who is a urologist in St. Louis. “This recognition will pique interest in A.T. Still and get people to look back and see exactly what he did. He started off as a young man in Virginia, spent time in Kansas, and then went to Kirksville and started osteopathy. It’s amazing when you look back and see what he was able to accomplish.”
The honoring of Dr. Still at the state level stands to increase the visibility of osteopathic medicine for a new generation of Missourians, Haxton notes.
“Even before we left the induction, thousands of kids were crawling through the Capitol as they do every single day,” he says. “There are classes of kindergarten, high school and junior high kids that never stop flowing in. Now Dr. Still is there to draw their interest in medicine and taking care of people. For Missouri, it’s a great win. Most of our kids and adults will go to the Capitol at some point.”
Outside Missouri, the recognition will positively affect all DOs and students who follow A.T. Still’s path today, Dr. Hahn says.
“A.T. Still’s osteopathic philosophy is built upon a foundation of primary care and prevention and a holistic approach to medicine,” he says. “That’s exactly what this country is seeking today. As folks recognize the contribution that the profession makes to medicine nationally and internationally, every opportunity to highlight the founder of the profession is certainly a benefit to all of us.”