Today I finished teaching for the semester at the Rocky Vista Osteopathic Medical school where I’m an Assistant Professor. I teach first-year medical students and the final exam is a pass fail test called “competency testing” where they diagnose and treat each other while the other faculty and I observe. For the students, it’s a nerve racking experience. For me, it’s an osteopathic marathon.
Many of you see students in the clinic. You may wonder who they are and how they got there. Perhaps you are not sure what really makes D.O.s different from M.D.s, especially if you have not had an osteopathic treatment. So here’s a little story on how an Osteopath is born.
First, we take a bright college student who took a lot of tests and did well enough to get into medical school. Then we teach them how to feel and think.
Here’s what we taught the students at Rocky Vista in their first year in the department of Osteopathic Principles and Practice:
Today, after ten short months in the classroom, the students amazed me. Competency testing can be challenging for the students who internalize the idea that they must be perfect at everything (like I did in med school) or for the ones that blow off true osteopathy. But under the layers of nerves were students who were really feeling and changing the physiology of their classmates. Bones moved, ligaments relaxed, muscles that were too tight let go. Next year the students will learn advanced techniques and start treating more and more clinically. This year we helped them to build a foundation.
It’s true, only about 20% of the students will graduate as Osteopaths and go on to use the manual skills they have learned. But in their 4th year I can tell they still have their placatory skills. I know they will be better surgeons because they can feel still feel fascia and understand functional anatomy. They ask deep questions when taking a medical history because they understand that looking at the whole person is part of what our founder, A.T. Still D.O., called “a rational approach to treatment”.
I wish more of our Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.s) could keep these skills honed through training and clinical practice. It is a clinical skill like any other that some are innately good at and others have to practice a lot to do well. I wish our medical system fostered the students to keep looking at the body this way. That is why you see students in our office on rotation. We want to teach them to look at people always as a good doctor will and see not just body - but mind and spirit. Dr Lisa is my “adopted D.O.” colleague—and friend—because she sees the whole person in context of their life. She considers stress, nutrition and exercise in her approach. A Doctor certainly doesn’t need to be a D.O. to think holistically.
Thanks for being a part of teaching every day you let a medical student tag along with your visit. You can always say “no, not today”. When it is ok to say yes, know that you are part of shaping a future Osteopath who might one day write a blog that incorporates all of our tenets without even realizing it until the end. It was the tenets of Osteopathic Medicine that attracted me to the profession when I was 19. Nearly 20 years later I believe in Osteopathy even more than ever. Congratulations future Osteopaths of 2021. Welcome to second year.
The Tenets of Osteopathic Medicine
The Tenets of Osteopathic Medicine express the underlying philosophy of osteopathic medicine and were approved by the AOA House of Delegates as policy.