Osteopathic Medicine

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A Mediaplanet guide to Empowering the Nation’s DOs

Osteopathic Medicine

Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee The first Black woman to lead a U.S. medical school opens up about being a role model

Dr. J.D. Polk talks about his experience as NASA’s chief health and medical officer Why D.O.s are in a unique position to help in the fight against COVID-19

MARCH 2021 | FUTUREOFPERSONALHEALTH.COM

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achieving new heights in medical education • RVU.EDU


What Makes Vaccines Work With COVID-19 vaccines now rolling out to more Americans every day, Andrea Amalfitano, dean of Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, uses his expertise to shed light on how vaccines work and the process for creating new ones. How do vaccines work? Vaccines work by introducing specific sub-portions, or antigens, of a desired “target,” like COVID-19, to the immune system in a manner that is safe and results in a training of the immune system should a vaccine recipient be subsequently exposed to COVID-19 naturally. The vaccinated individual will be able to ramp up an immune response that eliminates COVID-19 much more rapidly than someone who was not vaccinated, thereby minimizing or completely preventing illness. What are the risks associated with getting a new vaccine? Vaccines are some of the safest (if not the safest) types of medications doctors can provide to their patients. In fact, if you look back through time, beyond clean water, vaccines have saved more lives and decreased morbidity of the human race more so than any other medicine. Risks can occur, as with anything administered to a human — even excess water consumption can be dangerous to humans. For this reason, clinical trials in hundreds or thousands of trial participants serve to identify potential side effects.

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Why Empowering Our DOs Is So Important As you read this publication, I hope you gain a better understanding of the osteopathic profession and the amazing people — past and present — who tirelessly work to improve healthcare in our country and proudly call themselves doctors of osteopathic medicine (D.O.s). When I saw the theme, “Empowering D.O.s,” it struck me as particularly appropriate because we strive to represent and empower more than 151,000 osteopathic physicians and students each day at the American Osteopathic Association. I am honored to provide an update and hope you enjoy learning more about what makes the osteopathic profession distinct. This month marks a full year since the COVID-19 pandemic began to stress our healthcare communities to unimaginable levels. Through great tragedy, adversity, and loss, osteopathic physicians have served selflessly

Kevin Klauer, D.O., EJD, CEO, American Osteopathic Association

on the front lines of the COVID battle and will continue to serve wherever and whenever needed. Because of these contributions and sacrifices, public awareness of D.O.s has never been higher, and pride in the profession throughout the nation’s hospitals and osteopathic medical schools has never been greater. The distinctiveness of D.O.s is what I hope you recognize and appreciate while reading this publication. About D.O.s Osteopathic medicine was founded on the belief that all systems in the body are interrelated, each working with the other to heal in times of illness.

That whole-person approach to care continues today, and D.O.s now account for approximately 11 percent of all physicians in the United States. We practice in any specialty after appropriate residency training and are one of two types of physicians licensed to practice medicine in each state of the United States. D.O.s have amazing stories to tell, and some of these are included in the next few pages. The American Osteopathic Association recently approved a detailed commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, during Black History Month in February. We’re excited to include a feature in this publication on Barbara Ross-Lee, D.O., the first Black woman to be dean of a U.S. medical school. Thank you for reading, and thank you for learning more about the osteopathic profession, and what makes D.O.s distinct and highly qualified to provide excellent patient care. Please have a safe and healthy 2021. n

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The Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association proudly supports the osteopathic profession and patients for over 115 years by: • • • •

Advocating for physicians and their patients Providing accessible, affordable AOA/ACCME accredited medical education Building strong communities Connecting the osteopathic profession

Pennsylvania’s osteopathic physicians — treating people, not just symptoms.

P MA POMA, 1330 EISENHOWER BOULEVARD, HARRISBURG, PA 17111 p: 717.939.9318 | e: poma@poma.org | w: www.poma.org


Osteopathic Medical Education Growing at Record Levels

When Dr. A.T. Still opened the American School of Osteopathy in a two-room building in 1892, he was following his dream to introduce a new method for treating patients, a new philosophy of healing. The 21 men and women who made up the school’s first graduating class were also following their own dreams of becoming physicians who looked beyond just prescribing the unreliable, and oftentimes unhealthy, drugs of the day. What began in a small Missouri town almost 130 years ago was a way to treat the whole patient — mind, body, and spirit. Today, doctors of osteopathic medicine (D.O.s) play a large and critical role in our nation’s healthcare system. Therefore, ensuring they are highly skilled, trained, and educated is essential to

the future of America’s public health network. Expanding network While the A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine is still going strong, it is now part of an ever-growing network of osteopathic medical schools. Today, 25 percent of all medical students in the United States are trained in one of the 37 accredited Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (COM). Spread out across 33 states

Become the doctor you would want caring for you. your family. your friends. your community.

and 58 locations, these schools offer students the highest caliber classroom experience, lab training, and clinical work, all enhanced with training that focuses on osteopathic principles and osteopathic manipulative medicine. And these principles have never been more popular. Applications to osteopathic medical schools hit record levels during the 2020-21 application cycle. In November, the American Association of Col-

leges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), which manages and tracks the application process, reported application numbers were up more than 16 percent from the previous year and had hit an all-time high. Even more impressive, these numbers were reported several months before application deadlines. Increasing visibility AACOM — and the schools it represents — has developed some innovative new pro-

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American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)

125,000+ practicing physicians

31,000+ medical students

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colleges of osteopathic medicine

Learn more about becoming a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) at ChooseDO.org

grams to increase awareness and outreach to prospective students who embrace the osteopathic philosophy. Virtual medical school fairs, including ones aimed at increasing diversity in the application pool, have helped recruitment over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the United States, more than 131,000 practicing D.O.s are treating patients across the spectrum of healthcare. Educating and training the next generation of doctors is a sacred responsibility and one that AACOM and its members take very seriously. There is no doubt that if A.T. Still could see how the numbers of osteopathic students, schools, and doctors have grown, he would be very proud. n


How Barbara Ross-Lee Became a Role Model in Osteopathic Medicine

With a long list of professional successes, including being the first African American woman to serve as dean of a medical school, today Ross-Lee is the role model she never had. Defying expectations Looking back, Ross-Lee recalls being interested in medicine as a student in 1950s Detroit.

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pursued new challenges and positions not generally perceived as available to women of color. “At the time, issues of gender and race didn’t enter my mind, because I was focused on whether I was qualified for the responsibilities and whether my credentials were strong enough to compete,” she said. Since receiving her D.O. degree in 1973, however, Ross-Lee says opportunities have evolved and the field has changed both quantitatively and qualitatively in terms of numbers of schools and students, as well as the

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Options were limited for a young Black woman at that time, and she encountered more opposition and negativity than support as she pursued higher education and a career in the medical field. There were guidance counselors who suggested she become a teacher rather than a doctor, for example, and supervisors who assumed she would fail. Rather than allowing antagonism to impede her success, however, Ross-Lee says those “many negative role models created a positive impact” as she learned “to set my own standard of excel-

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Though opportunities for Black women in medicine were scarce when Barbara Ross-Lee started medical school nearly 40 years ago, she blazed a trail in osteopathic medicine and became a role model to a generation of Black female physicians.

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lence since their expectation of what I was capable of as a Black female was so low.” Then and now That self-reliance and internal motivation served her well throughout her career as she

continuum of education that includes residency training. In addition, she says osteopathic medicine’s “roots in rural and urban underserved populations have made the profession more familiar to underrepresented minority communities.” As a result, there is hope that recruiting minorities — a challenge across all areas of medicine — will become more urgent. “The opportunities are excellent, the education is superior, and minorities should pursue osteopathic medicine if they are interested in the field of medicine,” she said. n Jill Coody Smits

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n the United States, colleges of osteopathic medicine have long trained medical students through a philosophy of whole-person patient care and a strong commitment to service. With faculty and students already embedded into the healthcare systems of their local communities, we have been able to enter quickly into the COVID-19 testing and vaccination workforce, addressing population health needs on an impressive scale. At Kansas City University (KCU), this community-based educational model allowed us to turn on a dime, immediately training first- and second-year medical students on both our Kansas City and Joplin, Missouri, campuses, and seamlessly transitioning them to augment the vaccinator workforce through established partnerships in the region.

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Osteopathic Medicine: Whole-Person and Community-Based Focus for Medical Care The merits of the community-based model of osteopathic medical education have been on full display recently during the worst public health crisis in modern history.

In just five weeks, KCU trained nearly 400 medical students, who were mobilized to numerous critical locations to vaccinate nearly 10,000 Missourians. We anticipate our students and faculty will likely vaccinate more than 100,000 Missourians in the next three months.

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Where they’re needed Community-based medical education places faculty and students who provide medical care into locally relevant areas where care is needed most. It teaches medical students to understand specific needs of patients in their unique environments, and in a more per-

sonal and complete way. Medical care is then delivered by taking into account the social, economic, political, and psychological factors that impact determinants of health. Indeed, the SARS-CoV 2 (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed cracks in a health system weakened by a lack of

commitment to public health, which is the necessary underpinning of good medical care. These deficiencies are forcing a reckoning about how both healthcare and the medical education system that supports it must continue to evolve to meet the needs of our patients.


The model of medical education, introduced over a century ago, educates medical students primarily in large teaching hospitals. However, most patient care takes place in ambulatory community-based settings. In the osteopathic model, a significant amount of medical student education takes

place in those community settings, thus assuring a more whole-person focus on the prevention of disease, the maintenance of health, the reduction in the impact of social and environmental factors on disease, and a clear understanding of specific issues in population health.

The frontlines Many colleges of osteopathic medicine across the country are now taking a leadership role in the battle against COVID-19 by capitalizing on their model of community-based education. Osteopathic medical students (even those in their first or second

year of training), with oversight from their physician faculty, are serving on the frontline as vaccinators to increase the number of doses of vaccine being administered. With greater attention on the commitment to population health, disease prevention, and community

care witnessed during this pandemic, there has been an increased interest among students wanting to become physicians, especially osteopathic physicians. Applications to allopathic (M.D.-granting) medical schools are up 18 percent, osteopathic (D.O.-granting) medical schools nationally are seeing a 19 percent jump, and Kansas City University is experiencing an increase of over 25 percent. Whether during a pandemic or in support of our nation’s ongoing efforts to improve the health and well-being of our citizens, choosing to educate physicians using a community-based model will help promote a healthcare system that is engaged, socially responsive, flexible, and able to act quickly to meet unique and changing population health needs. n Marc B. Hahn, D.O., President and CEO, Kansas City University

Solving the shortage of Primary Care doctors There is a shortage of Primary Care in Texas and nationwide. This is TCOM’s major focus. +60% of our 2021 graduates were matched in primary care.

JOIN US unthsc.edu/DiscoverTCOM

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The Growing Influence of Osteopathic Medicine Over the past century, more and more people learned about osteopathic medicine, and nearly 7,000 new physicians graduated from osteopathic medical schools in 2019. From the beginning, A.T. Still, the founder of osteopathic medicine, believed in not only seeing patients in a “whole-person” manner, but also seeing his trainees in the same way as he had several women in his first class of 21 medical students — four, to be exact. Women, and eventually Black students, have been valued as osteopathic medical students. I believe that means Dr. Still saw beyond a person’s social status and labels, and instead treated them as we

all hope to be treated: as a whole person in society. Breaking down barriers D.O.s continue to shape medical education. Just look at Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, who became the first African American woman to be appointed dean of a U.S. medical school. I am also considered a “first,” but for a smaller group of people: my family. I am the first physician in my family, D.O. or otherwise. Seeing my grandmother, who tirelessly picked cotton in Alabama to make a living, and who was brave enough to walk in Montgomery with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., smile at my medical school graduation was priceless. I am a representation of her wildest dreams and a product of her sacrifices.

Nevertheless, it has been a journey to get to this point, as my education has been filled with ups and downs, failures and triumphs, but overall, there has been continued growth as I became the resident physician I am today. After graduating from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, I began my residency at the Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) and became the youngest Black osteopathic resident physician in history. I chose to attend a D.O. school because I have been committed to primary care since college, and reports show D.O.s are more likely to pursue residencies in primary care and preventative medicine. Expanding field Studies suggest 1 in 4 current U.S. med-

ical students attends an osteopathic medical school. Five years ago, there were two residency matches — one for D.O.s and one for M.D.s. Since 2020, there is only one: combined residency match. We have also witnessed two D.O.s be appointed as the physicians for both current President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. My passion for increasing awareness for osteopathic physicians will only continue. Even at my own residency, I have made efforts to recruit more osteopathic medical students, and MSM has made this a priority as well, with the number of D.O.s training at MSM doubling over the past 5 years. I truly believe the increasing recognition of osteopathic medicine is beyond what A.T. Still could have imagined — and the influences of D.O.’s in the United States seems to only be increasing. Osteopathic medicine will continue to be a leader in the future of healthcare. n Ashley R. Peterson, D.O., Family Medicine Resident Physician, Morehouse School of Medicine

1921 TO 2021 CELEBRATING A LEGACY OF TORCH PASSERS Meta L. Christy, DO 1921

Ashley R. Peterson, DO 2019

Lighting the Way as the First Black Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

Blazing a Bold Path as One of the Youngest Black DO Graduates

A 100-Y E AR CO M M IT M E N T TO D I V E R S I TY, E Q U I TY A N D I N C LU S I O N

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NASA’s Chief Medical Officer Discusses the Astronomic Rise of Osteopathic Medicine Dr. J.D. Polk, was drawn to osteopathic medicine because of its wholeperson approach to patient health. J.D. Polk, D.O., NASA’s chief health and medical officer, is one of an ever-growing number of medical professionals practicing osteopathic medicine. Dr. Polk, who is the former dean of medicine for Des Moines University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, was inspired to become a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) when he was working as a physical therapist assistant and an EMT. “The ER doctor at the emergency department where I would take patients was a D.O., and we had a D.O.

at the medical center where I was in physical therapy,” Dr. Polk said. “I was very impressed how both of those individuals were very amicable. They always took time out to teach and were very whole-person in their approach.” Observing these D.O.s, Dr. Polk saw how a whole-person approach to patient review made for a more complete picture of a patient, and therefore a better diagnosis. “The D.O. would ask about their home life, what exercise they got, what diet they had,” Dr. Polk said. “I didn’t see that very often, so that really made an impact for me, to see a very whole-person picture in review medicine.”

A space for D.O.s Working with NASA, Dr. Polk sees a great benefit applying this whole-person approach when it comes to space travel. “A good example is that the astronauts may have bone loss in microgravity and lose calcium,” he said. “Bone loss itself doesn’t just decrease the bone mass and cause brittle bones, but the calcium actually gets cleared through the kidneys and can put the astronauts at risk for kidney stone. You start to see that all these different organ systems are connected, and how we address them at NASA is multifacted, whether it’s pharmacologic, nutrition, or exercise. That’s a very osteopathic approach.”

Despite the proliferation of osteopathic medical professionals, there are still misconceptions among the general public about the field. “I think very often people confuse it with chiropractic, and I don’t view it in that vein at all,” Dr. Polk said. “I view osteopathy as a more whole-person practice of medicine, where manual medicine or physical medicine is one component but not the only component.” The COVID pandemic has made it difficult for many D.O.s whose practices rely on physical touch. “We’re at arms-length from the patient now, even in the ICU,” Dr. Polk said. “That’s tough on patients for whom that personal contact is very important, but I think this is a good time for our profession to continue to expand and educate as many people as possible on what osteopathic medicine is. It really lets you know just how impactful touch and relationships and eye contact are, things we take for granted, which maybe on the backside of this pandemic we won’t take for granted.” n Ross Elliott

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Why These Students Chose to Join the DO Community Two students share their unique experiences getting to and through osteopathic medical school.

Mariah Hydzik Campbell University Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine, Class of 2024

Ahmed Nahian Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Class of 2027

I was inspired to pursue a D.O. by witnessing both my mother and sister struggle with their mental and physical health simultaneously, with significant consequences in their lives and on my family as a whole. Through the years, my family’s trauma has been my motivation and my hindrance. Learning healthy ways to cope with personal struggle and professional drive continues to be an avenue of growth for me. The D.O. community at my school and across the country is an incredible source of support.

My father, a D.O. neurologist, was at residency when I decided to follow in his footsteps into the D.O. pathway. I gave up on a UC Berkeley acceptance and a B.S./M.D. acceptance to pursue my dream of becoming a D.O. I have collaborated with dedicated early-accepted B.S./D.O. students like me and have used their insights to create a PreSOMA Instagram page to represent the osteopathic community. I created a series called #DoctorsThatDO by authoring posts that feature celebrated osteopathic physicians’ lives and works.

How a Prominent D.O. Became a Healthcare Leader Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.s) — fully licensed physicians who have a whole-person approach to medicine — hold some of the highest medical roles in the country. Take for example, Humayun J. Chaudhry, D.O., MACP, who’s president and CEO of The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), a national non-profit organization representing all medical boards within the United States that license and discipline allopathic and osteopathic physicians. “It’s an exciting time to be in healthcare because medicine is dynamic,” Dr. Chaudhry said. “There’s so much happening in the clinical space, and new ways of diagnosing, managing, and treating.” He says COVID-19 is a great example of how medicine is always changing, challenging providers to better understand and manage conditions and care. Improving healthcare Dr. Chaudhry says the pandemic has been a challenge for the entire world. He’s been impressed by how healthcare professionals have come together — being nimble, flexible and collaborative — to help.

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He and his colleagues are taking on other important societal issues, too. “In the middle of this pandemic with this virus, we also have several other pandemics going on,” he said. “Health equity, systemic racism, and what we can do about it have been among the issues that healthcare organizations have had to address and should address.” Dr. Chaudhry recently moderated a three-hour FSMB symposium called “Health Equity and Medical Regulation: How Disparities Are Impacting U.S. Health Care Quality and Delivery and Why it Matters,” which looked at racism, implicit bias, and other factors driving disparities in U.S. healthcare. He says it’s important to better understand the issues, so as to help improve how healthcare can be delivered safely and equitably. The same way he would consult a specialist about a patient, he asks experts to help him and his team understand important issues. “I’ve brought a lot of my clinical experience and wisdom to the roles I’ve held in leadership in making sure that, at the end of the day, we have the right answer and that we do the right thing,” Dr. Chaudhry said. n Kristen Castillo


Strengthening Healthcare Through Diversity and Inclusion Embracing the heritage of osteopathic medicine’s founder A.T. Still, the American Osteopathic Foundation strives to fulfill his legacy of diversity and inclusion. n “The Feminist Touch”, a PBS documentary based on the book “The Feminine Touch: Women in Osteopathic Medicine,” by Thomas Quinn, D.O., we learn more about how Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., D.O., founded osteopathic medicine in the 1800s, and how his critical decision to include women and minorities in his medical school created an innovative, inclusive foundation for the osteopathic medical profession. Throughout its more than 70-year history, the American Osteopathic Foundation has carried out the legacy of A.T. Still by embracing the rich diversity of our field, and supporting the efforts of students and professionals working toward greater equity and inclusion.

Minority scholarship program One of the foundation’s most important educational initiatives directly addressing diversity has been its William G. Anderson, D.O., Minority Scholarship program. William G. Anderson, D.O., has been a pioneer in civil rights and osteopathic medicine, working with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement and later serving as the American Osteopathic Association’s first Black president. The American Osteopathic Foundation’s scholarship in Dr. Anderson’s name honors exceptional osteopathic medical students from minority backgrounds who are leading efforts to increase representa-

tion, opportunities, and diversity in medicine. Since its establishment in 2000, the William G. Anderson, D.O., Minority Scholarship has been awarded to 26 student doctors from across the country. Providing critical care Just recently, the foundation launched the LGBTQ+ Equity and Inclusion Campaign to undertake the work of better understanding and addressing the healthcare needs of the LGBTQ+ community. Through this new initiative, the American Osteopathic Foundation aims to improve the health literacy skills of healthcare providers and address a wide scope of healthcare

needs of the LGBTQ+ community through educational scholarships, continuing medical education training, and diversity-enriching programs. It’s still early, but the initial support for this important work has been vast. The American Osteopathic Foundation welcomes collaboration with individuals and organizations who are also striving for equity and inclusion. Building on the foundation laid by A.T. Still, M.D., D.O., we will strengthen and amplify the collective voice of the osteopathic medical profession to make a positive impact now and for generations to come. n Dr. Jeffrey S. Grove, D.O., FACOFP, dist., Board President, American Osteopathic Foundation

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