New beginnings

‘People want doctors who listen’: Creating a national awareness campaign

Interested in learning how the messages of the AOA’s national awareness campaign were developed? Its key players share insights.


Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine treat people, not patients. They practice in all medical specialties. They are trained to learn a person’s complete story and provide empathetic, whole-person care.

These are some of the key messages of the AOA’s new national osteopathic awareness campaign, which launched Saturday.

The multiyear, multimillion-dollar campaign aims to raise the visibility of the osteopathic profession and will promote the DO philosophy within the pages of national magazines such as Men’s Health and Parents, on respected health websites such as and Healthgrades, and at major events such as the New York City Marathon.

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“Not just in the months ahead, but in the years ahead, you will not have to answer the question ‘What is a DO?'” AOA CEO Adrienne White-Faines, MPA, noted on Saturday during the OMED General Session after the campaign messaging was unveiled.

Creating the campaign

In developing campaign messaging, the AOA relied heavily on market research of potential patients, DOs and osteopathic medical students. The research revealed that the DO philosophy of treating the whole person aligned heavily with what consumers are looking for.

“To me, this is really remarkable,” says Ronn Kirkwood, the senior vice president of Cramer-Krasselt, the award-winning marketing agency the AOA worked with to develop the campaign. “A profession that’s 140 years old is offering values and principles and methods of treatment that are consistent with what people are seeking in the 21st century. We heard it come up over and over again in the consumer research. People want doctors who listen, who are empathetic and who see them as a whole person.”

Consumers also want reassurance that DOs are fully trained, fully licensed physicians, Kirkwood notes. This campaign will dispel misconceptions that DOs are chiropractors and that they practice alternative medicine.

“In addition to having this very motivating, inspiring message about treating the whole person, we will also provide assurance that DOs are doctors who employ the current medical science and technology in their practice of medicine,” Kirkwood says.

A boon for the profession

Featuring real DOs from throughout the country, the national awareness campaign stands to advance the cause of osteopathic medicine in several different ways, notes AOA Trustee William J. Burke, DO, the chair of the AOA’s Brand Awareness Task Force.

“The campaign will not only serve to educate our patients and potential patients on who we are and what we do, but will also help enhance the pride of DOs and medical students across the country,” he says.

The campaign is also an opportunity to showcase the diverse face of osteopathic medicine today, Dr. Burke notes.

“Not only are we racially, ethnically and geographically diverse, we are also an increasingly young profession as well,” he says.

Kirkwood agrees.

“We understood the importance of connecting with medically underserved populations in both urban and rural areas,” he says. “We wanted to demonstrate the diversity of the osteopathic physicians who are working to treat the medically underserved.”

The timing of the campaign is opportune because open enrollment season is starting, and many patients will be seeking new physicians. The campaign is also kicking off while the osteopathic medical profession is experiencing a growth spurt, notes Dr. Burke.

“This is an exciting time for osteopathic medicine,” he says. “We’re one of the fastest-growing medical professions in the country. One in 4 medical students is now enrolled in an osteopathic medical school. We have a public that is looking for something a little different, and we have the resources to advocate for the osteopathic medical profession. This is the perfect opportunity for us to share who we are, what we do, and why it makes a difference for our patients.”


  1. Carolyn Quist, DO

    Love the campaign! I think everyone involved has done a tremendous job and this should make a huge impact on awareness of who we are!

    1. Donna

      I hate the campaign! I am pretty sure the DO uses 90% of the lab and radiology results to diagnosis the patient. Also pretty sure the have upset 100% of the lab personnel .

      1. Doctors that DO

        Hello Donna,
        Thank you for sharing your feedback on our Doctors That DO campaign. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of osteopathic physicians and their whole-person philosophy of care, not diminish the important role of laboratory professionals and other health care providers. All members of the health care delivery team play an important role in providing quality care to patients, both those who directly interact with patients and those who are in labs, running equipment and fulfilling other vital roles.

        DOs are uniquely trained to look at the whole person, considering the latest science and technology as well as lifestyle and environmental factors when assessing a patient’s health. The ads echo how DOs’ holistic approach to health keeps the person—not any one test, scan or treatment—at the center of care delivery.

      2. Andrew

        “In addition to having this very motivating, inspiring message about treating the whole person, we will also provide assurance that DOs are doctors who employ the current medical science and technology in their practice of medicine,” Kirkwood says.

        If you are going to say you employ the current medical technology in your practice, you can NOT diminish the role of the lab. The lab has some of the newest technologies in medicine and using the lab would be more technologically-geared than using a DO’s “guess” at a diagnosis. 70% of all diagnoses are made based on lab results. And Donna is correct, I am pretty sure you have upset 100% of lab professionals (and some DOs that I know as well) with these poorly worded ads. Saying that “The Lab does not make a diagnosis” is not only rude, it is incorrect as we do aid in 70% of all diagnoses in medicine. Please consider re-wording these ads. It really makes the profession look much worse and we all need to be united in the healthcare field. We need positive relationships and teamwork. Not belittling and ignorance.

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  3. David

    I understand what your ad campaign is trying to get at, treating patients as people and really listening to them. That’s a message we can all get behind. As a Medical Lab Scientist though the message regarding lab tests and “The Lab” is highly offensive. We are highly educated medical professionals who work hard everyday to ensure that physicians receive accurate and correct lab results in order to properly diagnose and treat their patients. We care just as much for the patients as any physician. To single out our department, which by the way does contain physicians that absolutely do diagnose patients, is just petty and makes you look like smug bullies.

    1. Daría Rodriguez

      I couldn’t have said it better. I will add that YOU can’t tell what’s in the blood by looking at the patient, I DO!

    2. Sam Dewey, MLS(ASCP)SH

      I agree that the Osteopathic approach to patient care is by-far the best approach. However, the DO campaign is promoting its own profession by demeaning another profession of the healthcare community.
      Where are the ads saying …. Nurses DO not diagnosis …. I Do
      Pharmacist DO not diagnosis …. I DO
      Medications DO not treat cancer … I DO
      Hospitals CEOs DO not treat patients … I DO… All individuals, test, medications, and equipment used, from the janitors to the doctors are important to the patients. Without janitors, RNs, techs, computers, laboratory tests, and medications your job would be much more difficult if not impossible. The campaign has singled out one group of the healthcare community, unintentionally I hope. Maybe you should re-consider some of your DO campaign ads. Please continue to promote your profession but not at the expensive of degrading another important profession.

  4. Jane

    I also understand your campaign and what you are trying to let people know about your profession. One of my cousin’s is a D.O. and has been practicing for quite some time. As health professionals we need to treat each other with respect, and your campaign does not respect my occupation as a Medical Technologist. The Lab is a complex network of professionals and instrumentation, and if it wasn’t for “the Lab” you or any other medical professional whether it be an O.D. or M.D. would not be able to make a diagnosis. The campaign poster regarding the lab should be changed.

  5. Debra Cassata, MLT/CLT ASCPcm

    Slander to a professional in the medical field-Shame on YOU!!! Is it any wonder why MD’s do not care for you…your attitude says it all!!

  6. SuzAnne Smith

    I know you’ve received quite a few messages from Medical Technologists. I have seen your “sorry, not sorry” response.
    I do hope you realize on some level the presentation was quite demeaning to laboratory employees and other ancillary staff. Generically, it is never a good idea to make yourself look better by putting others down.
    I am not trying to say that we should live in a world that is so politically correct that we cannot express ourselves, but I still think this was a rather harsh and ugly way to promote your organization.

  7. Debbie K.

    As a clinical laboratory scientist, I find your new campaign disgraceful, putting down others to make yourself look good is bad manners. You as a DO use your education to determine what might be wrong with your patient, you then use one of several ancillary services such as radiology or the laboratory to confirm the diagnosis. I believe you should pull your ad campaign.

  8. Stephanie, MLS, ASCP

    Your campaign is very disrespectful and discrediting to many very talented and highly educated healthcare professionals that have specialized in radiologic and laboratory science! I understand the point you are trying to make, but it’s worded very poorly!! How unprofessional and unappreciative of fellow healthcare team members that work tirelessly to provide comprehensive care to our patients… Shame on you.


    As a Clinical Laboratory Scientists, I find this ad campaign to be demeaning not just to my beloved profession, but to Nurses, Medical Imaging Technologists, Pharmacists, Respiratory Therapists, etc. You also have totally missed the mark that the Laboratory is more than just a bunch a machines, it is staffed with people who care deeply for the patients that they serve day and night. From the Phlebotomist to the Lab Assistant, from the Clinical Laboratory Technician to the Clinical Laboratory Scientists, to the Pathologist (who is a physician and could even be a DO) do care deeply. And the Pathologist actually does render a diagnosis on every single Pathology report issued. You do not value or respect the Laboratory, but you could not possibly give adequate care to your patient without the Laboratory.

  10. Theresa M: C, MLT (ASCP)cm

    In your latest ad campaign to show how a DO practices medicine, you have managed to alienate two hard-working, compassionate, caring, and very educated groups of professionals: medical laboratory professionals and radiologic techs. For some reason you chose not to slam respiratory techs, pharmacy techs (or maybe those ads aren’t completed). Well, RNs don’t diagnose patients, either. But if you go after RNs, there will be an even fiercer negative reaction.

    When I saw your ad stating ‘the lab doesn’t diagnose, I DO’, I knew there would be a huge outcry among those in my profession. Yes, I am a medical laboratory scientist. I spent several years learning many of the same basics that you did, then branching off to learn about all aspects of laboratory science and how it relates to various diseases (not enough room to tell all that we study in lab school!). Of how to tell if the results on a given blood sample really make sense (is this a realistic test result or could there be a problem with the sample?). Of how to answer the doctor’s question of ‘what tests can I order to help figure out how to help my patient?’ Because who better to tell this but a person trained in laboratory science?

    We all bring knowledge and skills to the table. Maybe you didn’t mean to trash another member of the health care team when your ad agency (no medical people there, obviously) came up with this campaign. But you did. And we let you know about it—with hundreds of responses on your website and anywhere there existed an opportunity for an opinion to be stated in the first 24-48 hrs since the first ad was shared on a large medical laboratory scientist website.

    Never underestimate laboratory specialists caring for their patients. We might never see them, but don’t ever think we won’t bend over backwards to make sure our instruments are properly maintained, calibrated and ready to give your patient’s labwork the most accurate results we can give.

  11. Glen M. MS, MLS(ASCP)

    This unfortunately is a good idea gone awry. DOs are just as legitimate as MDs and have a unique holistic approach to patient care. Bravo.

    The message of these ads should be touting the benefits of choosing a DO, that a DO is a legitimate alternative to an MD, maybe even the fact there CAN be some benefits of choosing a DO over an MD. However, at best, this is a ham-fisted attempted to blow your own horns.

    How do you diagnose patients without using the laboratory that provides over 70 percent of objective data used in making medical decisions? How do you diagnose HIV, diabetes, leukemia, diabetes, a strep throat, anemia, cancer? Do you just “divine” these and many other diagnoses? How do you monitor the effectiveness of treatment? Really good doctors call on the expertise of medical laboratory scientists.

    You cannot successfully convince any intelligent viewer/reader there is any good doctor who does not take advantage of the tremendous body of knowledge available in the clinical laboratory. You cannot seriously claim you can practice sound medicine without medical lab science.

    We all make mistakes. This is a an opportunity to retool and regroup. Again, I guess the message is that DOs are effective and reputable. However, the dismissal of objective tools used in modern medicine, the disdain for other healthcare professionals, is sending the exact opposite message about your field.

  12. Angela MLS ASCP

    As Lab Professionals several of my staff including myself have emailed our disappointment with this ad campaign. As health care professionals we know that it truly takes every person showing up every day to care for our patients regardless of level of education, degrees, certifications, licenses, or diplomas. I am a member of a health care team that collectively works to provide the best care for each and every patient that team includes every one I work with at our hospital. When you go through orientation one of the key elements you learn as part of our culture is that you are asked to manage each other and yourself up, patients appreciate knowing that you care, your experiences, and that you are dedicated to their health. This advertisement manages up a particular profession at the expense of others. I’d like to say Thank You to everyone who works in health care and that your role and you as a person are valued and appreciated! Also, I am truly proud to be a member of such an awesome group of intelligent people, seeing all of my fellow Lab Professionals speaking out about this shows how much we care. Finally, LAB WEEK STARTS APRIL 24th 2016!!!

  13. Alicia Wichman MLS (ASCP)cm

    In one fell swoop your new advertising campaign belittled the role of Allied health in patient care, and contributed to the black box ideal that is “The Lab”.

    The public in general has a very skewed exposure to “the Lab” thanks to TV shows like ER and Greys Anatomy.

    I would expect DO’s, who are trying to recruit, to emphasize cooperation and knowledge sharing with the different disciplines of healthcare, not downplay their contributions.

    This entire add campaign is offensive, and seriously decreases my respect for the DO profession.

  14. Ingrid Cifuentes MLS (ASCP)

    Horrible campaign! you have insulted the Lab Technologists nationwide who DO diagnose and help diagnose through precise and accurate LABORATORY TESTS! This campaign is a boldface lie if you are telling patients that you do not rely on lab tests. DO’s order lab tests on a daily basis. DO your research, stop with the lame “sorry” you are sending us for these terrible ads! Disrespectful and insulting to other health care professionals. Your ads are a disgrace to laboratory and radiology professionals. I will NOT be seeing a DO if this is how you are promoting your team.
    TRUST US, we will not stop until you change this campaign!
    You’re welcome for making you look good,
    p.s. patients have seen this ad and they find it insulting to the allied health community!

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