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Letters to the Editor  |   December 2010
Osteopathic Medical Terminology—Redux
Author Affiliations
  • Thomas Wesley Allen, DO, MPH
    AOA Editor in Chief Emeritus
Article Information
Medical Education / Neuromusculoskeletal Disorders / Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment / Osteopathic Cranial Manipulative Medicine
Letters to the Editor   |   December 2010
Osteopathic Medical Terminology—Redux
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, December 2010, Vol. 110, 743-744. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2010.110.12.743
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, December 2010, Vol. 110, 743-744. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2010.110.12.743
To the Editor:  
Fifty years ago, the American Osteopathic Association established a policy that the term osteopathic medicine should replace of the term osteopathy. 
During the AOA House of Delegates' meeting in 1960, a principal argument proffered for considering the policy was that the term osteopathy is considered by many to be restrictive and suggests limited training and restrictive privileges (as in foreign-trained osteopaths). As a result, a policy was adopted that the terms osteopath and osteopathy be reserved for “historical, sentimental, and informal discussions only.”1 
By the late 1970s, colleges of osteopathy had changed their names to colleges of osteopathic medicine, and several years later, the colleges adjusted the degree designation from doctor of osteopathy to doctor of osteopathic medicine. Most osteopathic medical associations adopted the change in terminology. 
Today, only the American Academy of Osteopathy continues to use osteopathy in its name. In addition, the Glossary of Osteopathic Terminology2 makes an exception for the term osteopathy in the cranial field, which describes the palpatory techniques and osteopathic manipulative treatment used to assess cranial dysfunction and to treat patients with such dysfunction. 
In 1993, I wrote the editorial1 that is reprinted on this page to outline in JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association the reasons that AOA publications follow the AOA's 1960 mandate in preferred terminology. However, some osteopathic physicians continue to use outdated terms. So it is not a surprise that patients still do not realize that we are fully licensed physicians. 
Words have meaning. Is it not time for the entire osteopathic medical profession to join together to erase the confusion that still exists because of the continued use of confusing terminology? 
Allen TW. “Osteopathic physician” defines our identity. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 1993;93(9):884 .
Educational Council on Osteopathic Principles of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. Glossary of Osteopathic Terminology. Rev ed. Chevy Chase, MD: American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine; April 2009. http://www.aacom.org/resources/Documents/Downloads/GOT2009ed.pdf. Accessed November 29, 2010.