Healthcare with a Holistic Approach

A unique, holistic form of American medical care, osteopathic medicine was developed in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, DO, founder and namesake of A.T. Still University (ATSU), the world’s first osteopathic medical school established in Kirksville, Missouri in 1892. Osteopathic medicine is centered in whole person healthcare, an integrated approach to treating each patient holistically.

Dissatisfied with 19th century healthcare, Dr. Still founded a philosophy of medicine based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, and which focuses on the unity of the body. Dr. Still pioneered the concept of wellness and identified the musculoskeletal system as a key element of health.

Osteopathic physicians take a whole person approach to caring for patients. Instead of treating specific symptoms or illnesses, they regard the body as an integrated whole.

“Over the past few years, osteopathic medicine’s traditional principles and practices (especially those focused on patient-centered, preventive care) have been heralded as central features of the kind of health care system that reform efforts aim to implement,” states Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, President, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. “In other words, osteopathic medical schools are educating the kind of physicians this country needs, and that fact is being increasingly recognized throughout the nation.”

Osteopathic Medicine in Practice

Today, osteopathic physicians and allied health professionals are one of the fastest growing segments of healthcare providers. They are on the cutting-edge of modern medicine, able to combine technology with compassion and their holistic approach to treating the body, mind, and spirit that provides thorough care for each patient.

DOs must complete the same amount of schooling and meet the same licensing requirements as MDs, with approximately 200 additional hours of training in osteopathic manipulative medicine. Osteopathic physicians can choose any specialty, prescribe drugs, perform surgeries, and practice medicine anywhere in the United States.

DOs are prominent in both primary care and specialty areas of medicine, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, neurosurgery, cardiology, radiology, dermatology, and neuromusculoskeletal medicine. At ATSU, they have a passion to give back and meet unmet community healthcare needs in underserved and rural settings. Students become among the most dedicated physicians and allied health professionals, the wisest of mentors, and the most enthusiastic leaders who are inspired to change the future of medicine.

Osteopathic Medicine Facts

  • Andrew Taylor Still, DO, founded the tenets of osteopathic medicine in 1874.
  • Kirksville, Mo., is known as the home of osteopathic medicine and the world’s first osteopathic medical school established by Dr. Still in 1892.
  • A.T. Still University is a private, not-for-profit University focused on integrating the tenets of osteopathic medicine with advancing knowledge of today’s science.
  • In 1897, Dr. Still’s students organized to form the American Association for the Advancement of Osteopathy, or the American Osteopathic Association as it is known today.
  • The U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare recognized the AOA as the accrediting body for osteopathic medical education in 1952. In 1967, the AOA was recognized by the National Commission on Accrediting (now the Council for Higher Education Accreditation) as the accrediting agency for all facets of osteopathic medical education in the United States.
  • Federal recognition had a profound effect on osteopathic medicine, spurring a second generation of schools and a dramatic increase in the number of osteopathic physicians. The big shift came in the move to state-supported schools, starting with Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Lansing, which graduated its first class in 1973.
  • Osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) has been used to treat a variety of problems such as ear infections, sinus problems, colic in infants, and many adult maladies. It has had a success rate high enough to convince many MDs to take classes in OMM.
  • More than 20 percent of U.S. medical students are enrolled in osteopathic medical schools.
  • Approximately 78,000 DOs practice in the United States, handling more than 10 percent of all office visits in rural areas and eight percent in urban areas. DOs have a strong history of serving rural and underserved areas, often providing their unique brand of compassionate, patient-centered care to some of the most economically disadvantaged members of society.
  • By 2020, the number of osteopathic physicians will top 100,000, say expert predictions, according to the American Medical Association. This is good news, as the need for more osteopathic physicians delivering compassionate, comprehensive healthcare continues to rise throughout the nation and around the world.
  • The American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) accredits 34 osteopathic medical schools which offer instruction at 51 teaching locations.