Several women were in the first class of the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri, pictured here circa 1893 with Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO. Photos such as this inspired Thomas Quinn, DO, to write a book about the role women played in the early years of the profession, which the documentary is based on.
First DO class
Dr. Quinn’s medicine women

Hero Next Door: DO historian champions profession’s female-friendly past

Educator Thomas Quinn, DO, wrote a book on women in osteopathic medicine that a Florida PBS station will convert to a documentary.

Although the latest of his many pet projects is still in the early stages, Thomas A. Quinn, DO, can’t conceal his delight. A Florida PBS station is going to make a documentary based on his 2011 book, The Feminine Touch: Women in Osteopathic Medicine.

Passionate about promoting the osteopathic profession, he proactively contacted executives at WEDU-TV, his local PBS affiliate.

“Once the producers saw my book, they got very excited and said they definitely want to do this,” says Dr. Quinn, a clinical professor of family and occupational medicine at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine-Bradenton Florida (LECOM-Bradenton). “I’m helping to rewrite the book into a documentary format, making sure that it is all historically accurate.”

The one-hour documentary will profile significant female DOs from three historical periods and specific sectors such as osteopathic research and the uniformed services. Slated for release in fall 2015, it will be available to all PBS stations across the country, Dr. Quinn says.

In addition to his book, Dr. Quinn has written a number of articles on osteopathic history and research for The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA), the American Academy of Osteopathy Journal and other publications. As an educator, he has championed osteopathic medicine by helping students secure rotations incorporating osteopathic manipulative treatment and encouraging premeds to apply to osteopathic medical school.

Raising awareness

Dr. Quinn’s passion for osteopathic history dates back to his fourth year at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), when he was asked to write an article on the history of the college for the 1966 yearbook. “Since then, I’ve been reading anything I can get my hands on,” he says.

In 1967, Dr. Quinn also became a part of osteopathic history himself as one of the original 111 DOs commissioned as medical officers in the U.S. military. At the time of his retirement from the military 24 years later, Col. Quinn was the state surgeon of the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Dr. Quinn became interested specifically in the contributions of female DOs when he, his wife and a LECOM-Bradenton student visited the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine to do some scholarly research. “All throughout the hallways of the university are pictures of the school’s early classes,” he says. “We were struck by how many women were in those pictures.

“I had been planning to write a pictorial history of the profession. My wife, Sissy, suggested that I focus my book on women in osteopathic medicine because nothing like that had been written before. It was a story that needed to be told.”

In an era when most allopathic medical schools refused to consider female applicants, Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, encouraged women to attend the American School of Osteopathy, which opened in 1892. In five years, the number of women enrolled rose from six to 100. By 1908, 35% of all osteopathic physicians in the U.S. were women, The Feminine Touch points out.

In 2009, the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine named a reading room in Dr. Quinn’s honor because he had been spending so much time there gathering information for his then-upcoming book.

“Dr. Quinn is one of our profession’s best historians,” says Robert G. Glinski, DO, an associate clinical professor of family medicine at LECOM-Bradenton.

Above and beyond

As a professor, Dr. Quinn is equally eager to share his knowledge of OMM and the osteopathic profession with students.

Dr. Quinn joined LECOM-Bradenton in 2004, when the school first opened, after a long and varied career as a family physician in private practice and an employed occupational medicine specialist, as well as a military medical officer.

Dr. Quinn performs OMT on a student. (Photo provided by Dr. Quinn)

“I’ve always loved teaching,” he says. “After I moved to Florida and found out LECOM was building a medical school here, I was one of the first to apply for a faculty position.”

In addition to lecturing on osteopathic history and heritage, Dr. Quinn instructs LECOM-Bradenton students on OMT techniques. But it’s what he does outside of the classroom that impresses his colleagues the most.

“They don’t come any better,” says Dr. Glinski. “Dr. Quinn stands out for his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty.”

Dr. Quinn not only serves as the faculty adviser for several LECOM-Bradenton student organizations and activities, but also goes out of his way to ensure that students get the most out of those experiences, Dr. Glinski says.

In addition, Dr. Quinn readily helps out other faculty members, attests Ronald Berezniak, PhD, who notes that Dr. Quinn frequently accompanies him on college visits to tell undergraduates about osteopathic medicine and LECOM-Bradenton.

“He gets the college kids all excited about osteopathic history and points out the prominent role women have had in the profession,” says Dr. Berezniak, the school’s assistant dean for academic and student affairs.

Dr. Quinn also demonstrates OMT to prospective students and meets individually with premeds who want to learn more about osteopathic medical school. In addition, he distributes The College Student’s Guide to Osteopathic Medicine, a 25-page booklet he wrote.

“The booklet is one of the big things the school is promoting right now,” Dr. Quinn says. “We’re giving out about 2,000 of them a year to undergraduates at different colleges who are interested in osteopathic medicine.”

At age 74, Dr. Quinn is amazingly energetic, says Mark E. Coty, PhD, LECOM-Bradenton’s assistant dean of preclinical education.

“Tom Quinn is quick to take on responsibilities, he never backs down on an obligation, and he’s so enthusiastic,” Dr. Coty says.

Leading by example

Concerned about LECOM-Bradenton students’ declining opportunities to use OMT during their clinical rotations—a nationwide problem for osteopathic medical students, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine—Dr. Quinn decided to do something about it. He compiled a database of preceptors who incorporate OMT into their practices and allow students to do manipulation on patients. He updates this list annually after surveying graduating fourth-year students.

“I distribute the list to students every year to help them find practices that will accept them for rotation and will let them use OMT,” he says. “Even now, many students don’t get a lot of exposure to OMT after second year.”

In partnership with the American Osteopathic Foundation, Dr. Quinn is establishing a $1,000-per-year, three-year scholarship in his name for students who are enthusiastic about and proficient in OMT. Both Dr. Quinn and the AOF will fund the scholarship. Students will receive the scholarship in their third and fourth year and in the first year of their osteopathically focused residency, with one new recipient selected annually, he says.

To foster appreciation for manipulation and evidence-based medicine, Dr. Quinn encourages students to participate in research projects. As the school’s faculty adviser for student research, Dr. Quinn guided a three-year study on OMT’s effects on stress, with students serving as both investigators and subjects.

“The first year, we just looked at subjective outcomes,” he says. “For the last two years, we’ve also been measuring biomarkers for stress, including sputum immunoglobin A and sputum amylase levels.”

The JAOA is going to publish an article on the first phase of the stress study next month, says Dr. Quinn. “Considering that the research is done by students primarily, this is a big honor for them,” he says.

Noting that the student research so far has been funded by small grants, Dr. Quinn hopes to obtain National Institutes of Health funding for a study to be conducted next year on the effects of OMT on pulmonary function.

Dr. Quinn is exceptional in the breadth of what he does, Dr. Berezniak says, noting that “he is a great role model” for students and faculty alike.

“Dr. Quinn is the consummate osteopathic physician,” Dr. Coty says. “He thinks holistically, taking into account mind, body and spirit. He’s a champion for the profession. Other faculty members look up to him as an elder statesmen.”

6 comments

  1. HI Tom

    Just a small note.

    I just wanted to let you know that all is well. I’m just about retired. Have not worked for 2 months.

    Call me if you have a chance.317-475 9848

    Best Regards Robert K. Kramer D.O.

  2. My Grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Kelley, might have been among the first women to study under Dr. Still. She was born in 1874. She practiced in Chicago, IL, and then married and practiced in Michigan. I’m wondering if there is any referenced to her. Thank you.

  3. I think we should buy Dr. Quinn’s book! My wife’s great aunt, Mabel Gray Newburn, also might have been one of those early students. Born in 1879 she practiced in Hastings, Nebraska. Look forward to the PBS special.
    Thank you,
    Mike McGrath

  4. Dr Quinn might find interesting : Andrew P Davis (yes that one) had a daughter, a grandson, three nieces, and a nephew who became Osteopathic Physicians. He had two sons who were Homeopathic Physicians and one son who was a Chiropractor.

    Andrew P Davis’ first born, Eliza Jane Davis was Dr. Lida Amato (Osteopath) in Dallas.
    Fergus S Davis was a Homeopath in Dallas.
    Edward E Davis was a Homeopath in Dallas.
    William W. Davis was a Chiropractor in Dallas.

    Fergus S Davis’ son Raymond Hill Davis was an Osteopath in Palo Alto CA. 1930 US Census

    Josiah W Davis of Kirksville – From what I have learned so far, A P Davis’ brother Josiah had seven daughters and two sons. Three of the daughters, Clara Anna, Martha Ellen (died in 1902 at age 29), and Ida Esther (married a Rev. Lemon) were Osteopathic Physicians. His second son and last born was Errett Edgar Davis an Osteopathic Physician in Tecumseh, Michigan – died in 1969.

    I have been researching my great-great-grandfather, Andrew Paxton Davis (1835-1919) for a few years. Side research – I read the notes for Chapter Two-James Stothers went back to ASO and graduated July 1, 1899 – same year (hence the confusion) as Julius Orlando Strother of Winfield, Kansas. James Stothers died in 1902.

    JG

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