The Osteopathic Approach
Osteopathic medicine is a distinct pathway to medical practice in the United States. Osteopathic medicine provides all of the benefits of modern medicine including prescription drugs, surgery, and the use of technology to diagnose disease and evaluate injury. It also offers the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system of treatment known as osteopathic manipulative medicine. Osteopathic medicine emphasizes helping each person achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health promotion and disease prevention.
Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, are fully licensed physicians who practice in all areas of medicine. Emphasizing a whole-person approach to treatment and care, DOs are trained to listen and partner with their patients to help them get healthy and stay well.
The American Osteopathic Association’s House of Delegates approved the “Tenets of Osteopathic Medicine” as policy which follows the underlying philosophy of osteopathic medicine. The tenets are:
- The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.
- The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
- Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
- Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.
Graduate Medical Education
Medical school does not produce a final product. It covers four years of osteopathic medical training, but students need to continue building their skills to fully incorporate and become an osteopathic physician. Just as a family physician must go through residency to become fully adept and comfortable for independent/autonomous patient care, so too does an osteopathic physician need continued development in osteopathic principles and practices to ensure mastery.
Over 25 percent of medical students in the US are training to be osteopathic physicians, 31,000 medical students training to become DOs, over 6,400 DO graduates were successfully matched in residency programs in 2019. These students chose to pursue an osteopathic medical education pathway to become a physician, and we believe most would like to continue to do so during their GME training.
Federal Health Care Priorities
In a time in which the focus is on high-quality, patient-centered care emphasizing disease prevention and cost-effectiveness, the primary care-focused osteopathic approach is on target and aligns with the needs of the nation’s health care system by providing:
- A focus on compassionate, whole-patient care
- Community-based learning environments
- A focus on prevention
- Primary care
- Care to underserved communities
- GME training in settings similar to where one will practice
- Attention to patient priorities and optimizing the health of patients
- Patient-centered culture
Osteopathic Recognition: An Opportunity
Osteopathic graduate medical education offers the opportunity for the continued honing of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) skills. It also offers an organized approach to teaching, evaluating and providing a learning environment enriched with osteopathic principles and practices is what is offered in a program with Osteopathic Recognition.
Institutions and programs that produce DOs are demonstrating their commitment to providing high-quality, community-based care with a focus on wellness and prevention. AOA-accredited programs that have already invested resources in the osteopathic approach can capitalize on that investment by maintaining their focus. It also allows for more consistency with the mission and aims of program and institution through recruitment of best-fit candidates
The most influential national and international accrediting body for graduate medical education has created a unique opportunity to ensure that osteopathic medicine is integrated and part of the system of training physicians. This is a national recognition of the importance of osteopathic medicine and its contributions to patient care, one that did not exist prior to 2015. Due to the single accreditation system for graduate medical education, Osteopathic Recognition is now a formal part of the ACGME.
Osteopathic Recognition provides an opportunity to expand the influence and reach of osteopathic medicine for the benefit of patient care. It also helps health care professions to further evaluate, research, define, and codify the unique contributions of the osteopathic medical approach to serving the health care needs of our country.
What The Health Care Community Is Saying
Osteopathic Recognition is important because I think it produces a holistic physician that can better take care of the patients in our country with their complex needs not only medically, but socially. It’s a very important aspect of our field.”Dr. Snyder, Program Director
Programs that achieve osteopathic recognition (OR) ensure that unique principles and practices of the osteopathic medical profession continue to benefit the entire house of medicine, and most importantly, patients for generations to come.”David Connett, DO, FACOFP
What Osteopathic Medical Students Are Saying
I would like to continue to develop my OMM/OMT skills during residency and understand how I can work to incorporate them into clinical practice.”
I chose to only apply to only osteopathic medical schools for a reason; I like the approach to a patient and the OMT. I’d like to continue with that focus into my residency as well.”
Continued education and training in OMM are essential to me. It is a valid healing modality that I believe and desire advanced training in.”
Because I believe the osteopathic philosophy is a great approach to healthcare and results in better well-being of the patient”
For more information on osteopathic medical students’ preference for programs with Osteopathic Recognition, see AACOM’s 2015 survey.