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Letters to the Editor  |   September 2011
“Whatever You Are, Be a Good One”: Osteopathic Identity, Equality, and the California Merger
Author Affiliations
  • Augustine L. Perrotta, DO
    Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Article Information
Medical Education / Neuromusculoskeletal Disorders / Professional Issues
Letters to the Editor   |   September 2011
“Whatever You Are, Be a Good One”: Osteopathic Identity, Equality, and the California Merger
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, September 2011, Vol. 111, 528-529. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2011.111.9.528
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, September 2011, Vol. 111, 528-529. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2011.111.9.528
To the Editor: 
The superb article in the May issue about Dorothy Marsh, DO—one of the individuals responsible for the 1961 amalgamation (mixture of diverse elements) or, more properly, merger (blend so as to lose identity) of the California Osteopathic Association with the California Medical Association—written by Hayley W. Ryan, OMS II, really captures the atmosphere of the times (J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2011;111[5]:339-343). I was a student at the Chicago College of Osteopathy at the time. With only 5 colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) left after the 1962 loss of the College of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons in Los Angeles (the COMs in Chicago; Des Moines, Iowa; Kansas City, Missouri; Kirksville, Missouri; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), the Chicago student body was convinced that either the end of the osteopathic medical profession was near and our school would close or, alternatively, that our school would soon be granting the “little MD degree.” 
Richard Eby, DO, a California obstetrician-gynecologist (as was Dr Marsh), was one of the 200 osteopathic physicians who refused the MD credentials issued by the newly created “California College of Medicine” in Irvine. With licensure of DOs and, thus, the DO degree destined to die in California by attrition, Dr Eby was appointed assistant executive director of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) in 1961 to coordinate the fight to reinstate the DO degree in that state. At my request, Dr Eby addressed our student body and infused a sense of cohesiveness, camaraderie, and fraternalism in us that set the theme for the rest of our professional lives. It was no coincidence that my graduating class (the class of 1966) was the first group of DOs to be inducted into the US Armed Forces as physicians and to be accepted into allopathic fellowships. We were truly separate but equal. 
Sadly, it took 12 years of California DOs being in limbo before the politicians, MDs, and the public learned that allopathic physicians do not define osteopathic physicians—nor does the allopathic medical profession set the standards for the osteopathic medical profession. We set our own standards. As noted by Student Doctor Ryan, the DO degree was reinstated in California in 1974. 
Losing the College of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons—arguably the best COM—brought many of us to the realization that we had an obligation to the public to save the distinction of the osteopathic medical profession. We did so by adopting the mentality of the old rental car advertising slogan comparing Avis to Hertz: “We're number 2 (in terms of member numbers), so we try harder.” More importantly, those DOs who carried on within the osteopathic medical profession were imbued with a sense of purpose, resolve, pride, and dignity, which gave them the vision, fortitude, and perseverance to survive in what was then a hostile medical climate from our allopathic counterparts. 
It is my belief that Student Doctor Ryan meant “wary” not “weary” when she wrote “modern osteopathic physicians should be weary of the same minority complex that drove Marsh and other California DOs toward amalgamation 50 years ago.” Following the loss of the California DOs, the osteopathic medical profession reached a low of 12,288 DOs, according to AOA statistics (I. Sorci, personal communication, July 2011). Currently, there are more than 78,000 DOs, and the number of COMs has grown to include 26 COMs in 30 locations. 
Thank you, Dr Marsh.