Proud voices

Osteopathic medical profession fights back after CNN, MSNBC mischaracterize DOs

DOs and the AOA are stepping up to set the record straight. Here’s what they’ve done—and how you can get involved.

Last week, when President Donald Trump reported his COVID-19 diagnosis and was subsequently hospitalized, White House Physician and Navy physician Sean Conley, DO, provided the press with updates on the president’s illness and treatment. The ensuing media spotlight on Dr. Conley resulted in unfortunate mischaracterizations of DOs that appeared, among other outlets, on CNN and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.

Maddow questioned why President Trump’s care is overseen by an “osteopath” rather than an infectious disease specialist or an internist. CNN pundit Gloria Borger implied that, as an “osteopath,” Dr. Conley is not an “actual doctor.”

To set the record straight, the AOA deployed an aggressive communications response aimed at correcting inaccuracies in the media and combatting the spread of misinformation on social media by challenging those who made false statements about the profession to #GetItRight.

The multifaceted campaign has gained momentum through the week, resulting in four media clarifications, interviews with the Los Angeles Times and Kaiser Health News, over 731,000 social media impressions and over 53,000 social media engagements over four days. It has united DOs, medical students and supporters of the profession with the singular goal of shattering myths and misconceptions about osteopathic medicine.

Get involved

There are several ways you can help amplify the AOA’s efforts to call out misrepresentation and demand accurate descriptions of DOs in the media. Here are a few suggestions for getting involved:

  • Tweet the media: The AOA Advocacy Action Center has created a form that members of the osteopathic medical community can fill out to quickly tweet at specific media outlets to implore them to set the record straight about osteopathic medicine.
  • Post on your own: Share the following sample post on your channels and tag the media outlets (CNN, the Rachel Maddow Show) that have shared false statements.

    Doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) are not “osteopaths.” DOs are fully licensed physicians equivalent to MDs, and can practice in ANY specialty including infectious disease. Many are treating COVID-19. You as the media are gatekeepers. STOP spreading misinformation.

  • Write an op-ed: Submit an op-ed to your local newspapers with the goal of reducing misinformation and raising awareness about osteopathic medicine. Sample messaging is available here.
  • Coming soon! The AOA is creating a video about osteopathic medicine that can be used by DOs and osteopathic medical students as a model for original content. This story will be updated with the link when the video is available.

Advocacy on the front lines

The following list details highlights and results of the AOA’s actions this week to protect and defend the osteopathic profession:

  • Requested clarifications from seven media outlets that published incorrect statements regarding DO training and credentials. Four have issued corrections; the remaining are pending.
  • Coordinated interviews with numerous top-tier media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and Kaiser Health News, to ensure accurate coverage and representation of the osteopathic profession in the news.
  • Partnered with the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine to submit a letter to the editor of The New York Times in response to erroneous statements that were published in an Oct. 3 article.
  • Provided 160 reporters with access to a list of AOA leaders and DO expert sources who can provide background information about the osteopathic medical profession.
  • Launched a vigorous social media campaign featuring approximately 50 unique posts that have driven a combined 731,724 impressions and 53,167 engagements over four days. Campaign tactics include challenging misstatements about osteopathic medicine, amplifying posts from DOs and MDs defending the profession, and crafting sample posts DOs and students can share to extend their collective voice.
  • Read on for a sampling of the many social posts published this week by the AOA, osteopathic physicians, medical students and supporters.

View this post on Instagram

Just your local DO taking care of Stroke patients on this cloudy Sunday. • • Over this weekend, during the media coverage of the President’s stay at Walter Reed/the physician looking after him (who is a DO) @cnn threw shade on osteopathic physicians using the phrase “well you know he’s an osteopath.” Later on @msnbc host Rachel Maddow, @maddowshow also made similar foolish and uneducated remarks. • • This didn’t go unnoticed by DO physicians & here’s why: DO’s in the United States are just as well trained as our MD counterparts. Both MD’s/DO’s take the MCAT, do 4 years of medical school, residency/fellowship(s). So how dare you pathetically attempt to infer ANY inferiority regarding my degree. Your ignorance does not take away from my degree. DO’s are not restricted in scope of practice or what specialties we can enter—and at competitive, respected academic institutions at that. In fact, there is now just ONE residency match process for both DO’s/MD’s as a result. Shoot, the most well known social media doctor— @doctor.mike (NYCOM graduate) is a DO. In short, @cnn do your homework—& if you don’t know, just ask me or your own medical correspondent, @drsanjaygupta . 🙂

A post shared by Jennings Gyedu, DO ✪ 🇬🇭 (@drjennings_) on

Related reading:

AOA statement regarding offensive FIGS ad

Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, KHN and others cover osteopathic medicine after media missteps


    1. Paul

      After the name of the physician you see D.O. or M.D. TBH it is confusing. I did not know for years that D.O. was technically the same. The AMA should require the assignation that follows the name to read: M.D. O. *or* M.D. A.

      No confusing it that way. Then the title will read M.D. (as in Medical Doctor – which both MD’s & DO’s are) with the technical clarification of an “O” or an “A” following that – to define the Dr’s Osteopathic or Allopathic training.

  1. Barbara Levine-Blase DO

    I can’t believe the ignorance of the press This is 2020 and they remain in the dark concerning the DO profession. We are highly educated physicians who work along side MDs and even teach MD medical students and residents. It was an honor seeing a DO in the position of caring for the president of the United States. I am certainly proud of this and all his decisions which had to be made. great job in curing our next president

  2. Nanette Ritchie

    How to inform the media:
    DOs are not equivalent to MDs. DOs have a heavier curriculum and when we graduate, we know what MDs do but not vice versa. That’s why the inferiority jabs are painfully ironic. We have the MD curriculum in addition to lectures, written and clinical performance exams in osteopathic practices and principles, manipulative medicine (because the musculoskeletal system is a major portion of the body) and holistic medicine. I’m not sure about allopathic and other osteopathic schools but at my school we also had a full semester of law class with lectures by an attorney and intermittent medicolegal exams. And the reason osteopathic medicine and manipulation came about was because the MDs were bleeding and purging patients so our founder wanted to focus on, and reinforce, the body’s innate ability to heal itself as well as provide primary care. That’s why many DOs go into family practice, go to remote areas and take care of it all – sew up a head, deliver a kid, put on a cast… A MD typically specializes and subspecializes so they need a big, major city population to support their income and career. Even after our residencies where we are trained side by side, we still know more than the allopaths based on our medical school education. Did Maddow or anyone refer to the MDs as allopaths? Doubt they are aware of the word. News commentators should be held to a high standard and know their facts. Their ignorance does not excuse this slander.

    1. Ralph Luciani

      Thank you. That whole response needs to be on the media. I’m proud of our education and profession. 79 yrs old here and now practicing Addiction Medicine and saving lives. My patients love my broad background including my manipulation skills. I was in the first group of DOs doing post grad in the Air Force and we were praised for our knowledge and caring. Ralph J. Luciani, DO, MS

  3. Indira Hazariwala

    I’ve a daughter in DO residency who works at least 80hrs a week. She is getting the best training and working as hard as any MD resident! So it’s total ignorance to belittle DOs.
    Just bc Dr. Conner is Trump’s Dr and is not transparent about Trump’s health timeline doesn’t make all other DOs uncompetitive. Do ur research b4 u broadcast ur ignorance on national TV!

  4. Mary Lourigan

    My family doctor is a DO. He often took call for MD. So if a MD trusts a DO then why shouldn’t I.

  5. Allen Whitmore

    Just combine with the AMA and end the money grab. Combine to fight mid level encroachment. Convert all DOs that passed Step exams to MDs with a designation of OMM if passing CME requirements; hell you could offer a “fee” of almost any amount if you’re still trying to pay off that vacation home or want to squeeze every last dollar you can.

    Shut down the schools charging egregious amounts for poor rotations 3rd+ 4th year that don’t meet standards. I have filed several complaints against my school while still a student and nothing was done, I had hard proof of poor rotations and neglect from my institution, I wasn’t even responded to. It’s the right thing to do and the distinction is meaningless.

    I’ve thought many a times to use my step 1,2 scores to re-apply to my in state MD school which would be almost free from scholarship and obtain both degrees, but then I realize that I’d be possibly forcing another student towards DO over Caribbean (match rate is much lower) and I can’t bring myself to it.

    I’m so happy the merger occurred because it’s the first step for the AOA realizing what the majority of osteopaths know… OMM isn’t really evidence based and the AOA + NBOME strictly exist to make money off the extremely high demand for medical education. Stop it already, there’s not a difference, DOs and MDs both treat holistically.

    Stop kidding yourself, combine and fight midlevel creep and start leaning on poorly run schools. Give a survey and see how many would convert.

    1. Joseph Yasso

      I have practiced osteopathic medicine for almost 40 years. I am retired now. My father was an osteopathic physician as well. When I said I wanted to be a physician my dad encouraged me to go to an MD school. I said no. It was the best decision I could have made. My 2 partners also DOs were great mentors. We did it all and loved taking care of people. I would like to think that the opportunity still exists to practice as a generalist but unfortunately it does not. We as osteopathic physicians need to stay true to our roots.

    1. K Johnson

      What does that have to do with his degree? And who’s to say he is lying? I’m not privy to the president’s medical information and neither are you.

  6. Richard Berry

    This is pure biased politics. Trump aside, this is yet another example of why the majority of people do not trust the media. It would have taken them 10 minutes to figure it out, they chose not to. On purpose.
    In my life and most people we are treated by DOs and MDs, we seek qualified doctors. I know full well the medical education is the same and osteopathic doctors have added curriculum.

  7. Leonard G. Digiovanni, DO, FACOFP

    You reap what you sow !!!!! For too many years we have used and accepted the meaningless terms, “Osteopath” and “osteopathy”…rather
    than, correctly, “Osteopathic Physician” and “Osteopathic Medicine”. The President’s DO physician has done more positive PR for our profession than the AOA has done in my lifetime !!!! I retired 3 year ago after 53 years as a very busy FP….with 7 DO’s in my immediate family !!
    At age 90…I am proud to be a DO, and to be part of our great profession…..

  8. Norm Castillo

    I am a proud retired DO. I never told bald face lies, and am embarrassed by doctors who do, be they Osteopathic or allopathic.

  9. Ethelda Goeller R N

    My husband was a Do. He was an anesthesiologist for over 30 years. He was also in family practice before this. I am an Rn and worked in surgery after training in an Md hospital.we did every esurgery procedure the same if not better then in my training hospital, I also worked inthe offices of DOs, where they did outstanding work. I am the mother of several children delivered by DO. You need to get your facts before you speak.

  10. James DeAngelis DO

    Practiced Emergency Medicine for 39 years, 20 at a highly regarded allopathic institution. Including myself there are 6 Osteopathic Physicians in my family. 3 children and there spouses. They have trained at some of the most respected institutions. The old myth of being bone crushers is long gone. I am happy the the AOA will attempt to educate the public.

  11. Karen Melton, physician

    The misplaced indignation of the osteopathic profession never ceases to amaze me. Here is a profession that boasts of a distinctiveness yet refuses that distinctiveness to be value judged.
    Society has the right in fact the duty to patients to understand the osteopathic paradigm and it’s premises.
    The problem has been that the members of the profession have failed miserably to educate themselves and others regarding osteopathic thought. For it is the thought that distinguishes the practice. Society has the right to agree or disagree with osteopathic thought and place a value judgement on it
    In fact the AOA has no right to blanket their statements or make claims about an individual physicians thought. Not all who have attended osteopathic schools are osteopathic in thought. Though they bare the DO initials they may not be osteopathic.
    I attended osteopathic medical school and did an osteopathic residency yet after studying the tenets and osteopathic premises can tell you I am not an osteopath
    My thought is not osteopathic. I do not believe or follow one tenet. In fact I have found the osteopathic tenets to be degrading and demoralizing to the human person.
    Dr. Conley may or may not be osteopathic in thought. It is up to him not the AOA . And it is up to society to know the difference and within their right to determine its merits

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