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Living Tribute Award

Edna M. Lay D.O.
1999 Living Tribute Award

Honored by KOAA for her contributions to the College and the osteopathic profession

When Edna M. Lay, D.O., FAAO, '46, emeritus associate professor of osteopathic manipulative medicine, learned in 1997 that the American Academy of Osteopathy (AAO) had selected her to deliver the 22nd annual Thomas L. Northup Lecture, she chose to share her memories of the lengthy battle to restore licensure for D.O.s in California.

"Anger is not a healthful emotion," she said during her lecture, "but it certainly stimulates one into action." Dr. Lay, who is a D.O. first, last, and always, was "very, very angry" with those involved in the conspiracy that led to the 1962 merger between the California D.O. and M.D. associations.

Then practicing in Ojai, Calif., it became clear to her that the merger was "designed to eliminate the osteopathic profession, starting in California and moving to other states using various tactics." Along with a group of other D.O.s who were determined to oppose this activity, a new state organization was formed, the Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons of California (OPSC).

"We had to fight for our rights," she recalled, "and we did just that." Dr. Lay, who would later become president of OPSC, was the legislative advocate and lobbyist for OPSC prior to the Supreme Court of California's ruling in 1974 that restored the power to examine and license D.O.s to the Board of Osteopathic Examiners.

Dr. Lay, the 1999 recipient of the Kirksville Osteopathic Alumni Association's (KOAA) Living Tribute Award, has always been vigilant of all things osteopathic.

How vigilant is she? Well, she didn't accept an offer in 1973 to join the Kirksville faculty as an assistant professor of osteopathic manipulative medicine until she was certain there would be a favorable ruling in California. Even then, she wavered.

"I finally decided that if somebody doesn't teach this art, it's going to die," said Dr. Lay, who retired from the faculty in 1985 and now lives in Bozeman, Mont.

Teaching the art of osteopathic manipulation was a challenge for Dr. Lay, and it gave her a good deal of satisfaction when the students were eager to learn. "But it was frustrating to teach those who didn't want to learn," she said.

Most of the students, however, were eager to learn from Dr. Lay, who taught the first cranial course at the College and was the recipient of the Gutensohn Merit Award for teaching in 1985.

"She was one of the best osteopathic manipulators I ever saw, and she was a good teacher, too," said Max T. Gutensohn, D.O., FACOI, '41, distinguished emeritus professor of internal medicine.

Dr. Lay, who has taught cranial courses in Australia, Belgium, and England, still teaches occasionally at continuing osteopathic medical education programs offered by the Sutherland Cranial Teaching Foundation.

Dr. Lay knew she wanted to be an osteopathic physician by the time she was high school senior in Ennis, Mont. She learned about osteopathy from a D.O. who practiced there. After reading everything she could find about osteopathic principles, she became a premed major at Montana State University.

After graduating from Kirksville in three years, she completed her internship at Doctors Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, then practiced in Tampa and Dade City in Florida for two years before relocating to California. She has two sons, J. Marcus Lay, D.O., '76, and A. Douglas Lay, D.O., '79, who are family physicians in Apros, Calif., and Santa Barbara, Calif., respectively. She also has a grandson, Timothy.

"I like everything about being an osteopathic physician," she said. "I like giving treatments and I like helping people. It was especially gratifying when I could give patients relief when they could not find it elsewhere."

Although she considers her tenure on the Kirksville faculty and her work during the troubled years in California as two of her most significant professional accomplishments, Dr. Lay is also pleased that she has been published in numerous medical journals.

She was a contributing author and peer reviewer for Foundations for Osteopathic Medicine, a textbook that was published in 1997 under the auspices of the American Osteopathic Association and the Bureau of Research in 1997. She wrote chapter 64, "Osteopathy in the Cranial Field," for the book.

She also wrote a chapter for Clinical Management of Head, Neck, and TMJ Pain, a textbook for the dental profession published in 1977 that was edited by a New York City dentist. Her chapter was titled "The Osteopathic Management of Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction." She has also been published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association and Osteopathic Annals.

A former president of The Cranial Academy and the National Osteopathic Women Physicians Association, she is a fellow of the AAO and past member of the AAO Board of Governors and Board of Trustees. She was also an examiner for the AAO Board on Fellowship and a consultant of the National Board of Osteopathic Examiners.

Dr. Lay received the AAO's A. T. Still Medallion of Honor in 1994 and the W. G. Sutherland Memorial Award in 1981.

Near the close of her Northup Lecture, Dr. Lay urged her peers to ensure that osteopathic manipulation continues to be practiced by osteopathic physicians. "When fewer and fewer osteopathic physicians give osteopathic manipulative treatments, there will be no distinguishing therapeutic factor in the delivery of health care. And osteopathy will have been eliminated," she said.

"I do not want to see this happen, and you do not want to have it happen. But it could happen if we are not vigilant."

Dr. Lay will be honored at the annual KOAA Luncheon & Assembly Meeting on October 25 during the American Osteopathic Association Convention & Scientific Seminar in San Francisco.

View Past Recipients

Established in 1969, the Living Tribute Award provides alumni and friends of the College with an opportunity to honor outstanding KCOM faculty and administrators who have made significant contributions to the College and the osteopathic profession. All donations in honor of Dr. Lay are restricted for the KOAA/KCOM Education Program Fund.