The founder of osteopathic medicine, A.T. Still, MD, DO, is pictured on the lower left in this photo.
Happy birthday, osteopathic medicine

Osteopathic medicine celebrates 125 years

Andrew Taylor Still’s distinctive philosophy lives on with the rapid growth of the osteopathic medical profession.

Osteopathic medical education is 125 years old this year. From its humble beginnings in Missouri, the osteopathic medical profession has grown to include over 102,000 U.S. DOs in 2017. Today, one in four U.S. medical students are enrolled in a college of osteopathic medicine.

A radical philosophy in 1874

In the nineteenth century, following the death of his wife, three of his children, and an adopted child—all from spinal meningitis—Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, concluded that conventional medicine at the time was seldom evidence-based, frequently ineffective and sometimes harmful.

In response, Dr. Still pioneered the osteopathic philosophy of medicine in 1874, which is rooted in prevention and the idea that physicians should focus on treating the whole patient, rather than just the disease.

Dr. Still also recognized that human anatomy was relatively well-understood. He developed manual techniques, now known as osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), that corrected dysfunction in the musculoskeletal system, enhancing the body’s ability to heal itself.

Osteopathic education’s legacy of inclusion

Dr. Still opened the first osteopathic medical school, the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri, in 1892. A 2017 PBS documentary highlights the school’s inclusivity: Its first graduating class was 27 percent female.

Today, women account for nearly 50 percent of the approximately 27,000 osteopathic medical students who attend 33 DO schools, operating in 48 locations across the United States. More than 50 percent of practicing DOs are younger than 45 and are more likely than other physicians to work in rural and underserved communities.

“This growing profession, once concentrated in just a dozen states, is influencing healthcare in our nation at the local, state and national levels. The value of the osteopathic approach is clear, and the profession looks forward to sharing our unique practice beyond the United States,” says AOA president Mark A. Baker, DO.

For a full timeline of osteopathic medicine, visit 125.atsu.edu/historical-timeline/.

Further reading

125 years of osteopathic medicine: Profession gears up to celebrate

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