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Letters to the Editor  |   June 2011
We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us
Author Affiliations
  • Arthur J. VanDerburgh, DO
    University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, Biddeford, Maine
Article Information
Medical Education / Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment / Pediatrics / COMLEX-USA
Letters to the Editor   |   June 2011
We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, June 2011, Vol. 111, 370-371. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2011.111.6.370
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, June 2011, Vol. 111, 370-371. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2011.111.6.370
To the Editor:  
Reading the letter section in JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association has become as entertaining as reading the same section in my local newspaper. There have been a number of recurring themes in recent JAOA editions, including debates over the use and efficacy of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT),1-5 changing our DO degree designation,6-13 and the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination-USA (COMLEX-USA) vs the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).14-19 All of these themes seem to be related to a crisis of identity in osteopathic medicine. 
In addition to these JAOA letters, an article in a recent edition of the alumni newsmagazine of the A.T. Still University of Health Sciences-Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine20 discusses the diminishing use of OMT. According to the article, after osteopathic medical students get into their clinical years, they virtually never consider using OMT—and this avoidance of OMT apparently continues for the rest of their careers. Houston, we have a problem! 
In the February 2011 JAOA, an osteopathic medical student suggests a method of improving the examination process by allowing osteopathic medical students to take the USMLE as the main competency examination and then take an adjunct test to cover concepts unique to osteopathic medicine.17 His letter is followed by rejoinders from other authors defending the COMLEX-USA.18,19 Incidentally, the Kaplan board review process is all about examinations—not competency. Good physicians are born with it, while the rest study their books so that “no child is left behind.” Examinations are mandated by political bodies to certify that we can practice medicine, but the examinations are no guarantee of professional competency. 
The letter by Arnold Melnick, DO,12 also in the February JAOA, makes an interesting point regarding the public's confusion about what an osteopathic physician is. (Although osteopathic physician is the currently preferred term in our profession, I do not find the term osteopath objectionable.) Perhaps the public is confused about what DOs are because we are confused about what we are. 
The various recent letters and articles on the apparent identity crisis in osteopathic medicine lead me to think of the cartoon character Pogo, who is famous for making the observation, “We have met the enemy and he is us!” 
Sucher BM. Musculoskeletal dysfunction and drop foot: diagnosis and management using OMM [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110(4):223-224.
Lavelle JM. Response [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110(4):224-225.
Magoun HI Jr. Effects of rib raising on the autonomic nervous system: a pilot study using noninvasive biomarkers [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110(10):608 .
Goldberg PM. Osteopathic medicine's holistic approach is more important than ever [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110(12):741-743.
Ching LM-G. Redirect terminology debate toward improved definition of osteopathic medicine [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2011;111 (3):142 ,174.
Hernandez MB. The DO difference: an analysis of causal relationships affecting the degree-change debate [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110 (1):45-46.
Bates BR, Mazer JP, Ledbetter AM, Norander S. Response [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110 (1):46-47.
Shore EE. The anachronistic fight for osteopathic distinctiveness [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110(5):299-300.
Fredricks TR. The anachronistic fight for osteopathic distinctiveness [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110(9):512 .
Comeaux Z. The anachronistic fight for osteopathic distinctiveness [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110(9):512 ,552.
Shore EE. Response [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc.. (2010). ;110(9):552-553.
Melnick A. Communication by degrees [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc.. (2011). ;111(2):124-125.
Walkowski SA. Current and distinctive terminology: osteopath and physician [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc.. (2011). ;111(3):141-142.
Parikh SP, Shiembob CA. New COMLEX-USA-to-USMLE conversion formula needed [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110(7):400-401.
Slocum PC. Response [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110(7):401 .
Gimpel JR. New COMLEX-USA-to-USMLE conversion formula needed [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110(10):577-578.
Burmeister JD. New COMLEX-USA-to-USMLE conversion formula needed [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2011;111(2):119 .
Slocum PC. Response [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc.. (2011). ;111(2):119-120.
Gimpel JR. Response [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc.. (2011). ;111(2):120 .
Stroppel K. OMT challenges at the heart of a profession. Still Magazine. Fall/Winter 2010;5(4):36-44. http://stillmagazine.atsu.edu/?p=1704. Accessed May 20, 2011.