We’ve come a long way, baby: Student life then and now

As the osteopathic profession turns 125, we take a look at how students lived and learned in the late 19th/early 20th century versus today.

Osteopathic medicine turned 125 this year, which got us thinking about the journey from the early days to the present, particularly for osteopathic medical students.

Our quest to discern the differences in student life in 1892 versus 2017 led us to the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University in Kirksville, Missouri, and their abundant historical archives. We also reached out to John Rajala, a second-year student at Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM) in Las Cruces, New Mexico, who serves on the Board of Trustees for the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA).

One told us the story of osteopathic student life for a third-term student at the turn of the 19th century, and the other gave us insight into what life is like today for osteopathic medical students.

Join us, won’t you, as we juxtapose student life 125 years in the making.

The day begins for this American School of Osteopathy student on Feb. 3, 1917.

American School of Osteopathy
A day in the life of a third-term student
Sept. 3, 1900*

7 a.m.

Wake up and have breakfast. American School of Osteopathy students frequently lodged with local Kirksville families during the instructional term.

Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM)
A day in the life of John Rajala, OMS II
Fall 2017

5 a.m. I get up, take my dogs out, shower and get ready while doing firecracker board prep. Then I eat a nice breakfast, which is one luxury I make time for every day in medical school. After checking emails and my schedule for the day, it’s time to head to school.

Kirksville circa 1900

8:30 a.m. Students gather their school books and walk through downtown Kirksville, Missouri, which is where the American School of Osteopathy was located.

BCOM 2017

7:20 a.m. John Rajala drives to school and tries to find a parking spot near his lecture hall.

Kirksville circa 1900

9 a.m. Students attend Regional Anatomy and Demonstration on the Cadaver course with Dr. William R. Laughlin, DO, and Dr. Clarence L. Rider, DO and Dr. Andrew T. Still, MD, DO.



8 a.m.  Students at BCOM use the Virtual Anatomy Lab with the Anatomage Table.

Kirksville circa 1900

11 a.m. Students took study breaks in the American School of Osteopathy Library and Reading Room.

BCOM 2017

11:30 am Students unwind in between classes in the BCOM Bear Den, a student lounge.

Kirksville circa 1900

1 p.m. Attend Theory and Practice of Osteopathy course with Dr. Charles E. Still and Dr. Charles Hazzard.

BCOM 2017

12:30 p.m. BCOM students in the patient simulation lab.

Kirksville circa 1900

2:30 p.m. Attend Pathology and Bacteriology lab with Dr. Frank P. Young.

BCOM 2017

2 p.m. Study hour: Run home and take the dogs out for a walk before reviewing lectures.

Kirksville circa 1900

3:30 p.m.  Meet for Football practice. By 1900 the American School of Osteopathy Athletic Association supported sports teams for both men and women in baseball, football, tennis, and track.

BCOM 2017

3:30 p.m. Work with a simulated patient in clinical skills lab. With a group of four other students, I see a high fidelity mannequin “patient” in an ED setting.

Kirksville 1913-1916

5 p.m. Walk back through downtown Kirksville and return to lodging for dinner and additional studying.

BCOM 2017

5 p.m. Leave school for the day, take my dogs on a walk, and order a pizza.

Kirksville circa 1900

7 p.m.  Attend meeting of the Atlas Club on campus. Female students had the opportunity to join an academic osteopathic sorority called the Axis Club.

BCOM 2017

6:30 p.m.  I move to the couch and surround myself with blankets, two laptops, and reams of notebook paper for evening studying. When my pizza shows up, I break for dinner and watch an episode of “How I Met Your Mother”.

* Historical photos are from 1900, which are more representative of how the school was run in the late 19th/early 20th century.


  1. R Mitchell Hiserote, DO

    If find it concerning that the student experience of a second year that was highlighted included no apparent OMM/OPP education or practice. We’ve come a long way yes, but in what direction?

    1. Gayle Bounds, D.O.

      I agree. I find it very concerning when DO’s
      make referrals to physical therapists, who do
      myofascial release and HVLA. Are these really “D.O.” s?

  2. Craig

    Wow! Really appreciate this photo series and comments! Brings back memories when I was in med school(MWU/CCOM, graduate of 1996).

  3. C. Cristine Kremer, DO

    Very interesting comparison. Note that 4 of 20 students (1/5 of the class) were women in 1900–better than the 7 out of 257 in my class in the bicentennial year (PCOM’76). Now MSU has been abt 50/50 for many years. Disturbing at today’s students’ lack of interaction with professors (all the pictures in the article showed students very isolated from other humans). Communication and hands on dealing with the patient seems to me to still be the central point for the interaction. (Psychiatry & Family Practice)

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