Letters to the Editor  |   September 2011
“Whatever You Are, Be a Good One”: Osteopathic Identity, Equality, and the California Merger
Author Affiliations
  • Arnold Melnick, DO
    Aventura, Florida
Article Information
Medical Education / Neuromusculoskeletal Disorders / Preventive Medicine
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, 529-530. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2011.111.9.529
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, September 2011, Vol. 111, 529-530. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2011.111.9.529
To the editor: 
I read with interest—great interest—”‘Whatever You Are, Be a Good One’: Osteopathic Identity, Equality, and the California Merger” by Hayley W. Ryan, OMS II, in the May issue of JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.1 In fact, I read it several times. For personal reasons, I was drawn to it: I sat in the American Osteopathic Association's House of Delegates (as a Pennsylvania delegate) before, during, and after the so-called merger. And I am now going back in memory 60 years. 
My comments are made with full understanding that discussion of the “merger” brings forth varied and opposite views, with many pros and cons from both sides and that even “historical facts” are dimmed by the passage of time. I also realize that to answer adequately an article such as this would take long, extensive research—even longer than the broad research done by the author (although solely on Dorothy Marsh)—and I am not prepared to do that. So I will simply point out some inconsistencies. 
Although written in a learned form and style, Ms Ryan's article contains pertinent errors and omissions, eschews any mention of the “merger's” role in today's osteopathic presence, and fails to show relevance to its title anywhere in its content. Approach-wise, I feel that this was an attempt at deification of Dorothy Marsh. 
Among the errors and omissions are the following:
    She wrote that Dr Marsh “won the merger a majority vote in California—296 to 63.”1 A vote of what?
    She wrote that because the College of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons (COP&S) was “the first osteopathic medical school to require previous college work,”1 it set them off from the rest of the country. In fact, at the time of the merger, and for many years before, all DO schools had such requirements. When I matriculated to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathy in 1942, I needed 3 to 4 years of college work.
    She failed to mention that it was not truly a merger, for to become an MD each DO had to pay a $65 fee.
    She failed to mention that the 41st Medical Society, according to some California DOs, was where all DOs were placed, possibly to prevent their influence in other district societies of the California Medical Association (CMA). (Ghettoized?)
    She failed to mention that the promerger people sold the COP&S to the CMA for $1.
    She failed to mention that 20% of the California DOs refused to buy the MD degree and continued to practice under their osteopathic licenses.
    She failed to mention the walkout of the California delegation at the AOA House of Delegates. Not straggling, or individually, but as though on a signal (which I think it was), everyone simultaneously arose and left the meeting room, never to return.
    She failed to mention that there occurred after the “merger” no mass migration or exodus of DOs in other states to get the California MD degree, showing the lack of major support otherwise.
In her slant to defend Dr Marsh, Ms Ryan did not recognize the California politics. To me, Dr Marsh was one of the leaders (for 1 year she was president of the California Osteopathic Association [COA]), but she was more of a lieutenant. Glen Caylor, DO, was for years the real leader of the COA—almost a dictator, at least in the eyes of the rest of the country. I remember that he led the California delegation in the AOA House of Delegates, even though he rarely spoke on the floor. I think he held the title of executive director of the CMA. According to Ethan Allen, DO, who became a leader in the resurrection of osteopathic medicine in California, Dr Caylor “was affronted by some of the AOA members in Chicago. He vowed that he would lead California away from the rest of the nation.”2 Also not mentioned were Forest Grunigen, DO, and Vincent Carroll, DO, whom I viewed at the time as the real leaders of California in the AOA House of Delegates. (There was always tension between California and the rest of the states in AOA matters and in the House of Delegates.) 
One major failure of Ms Ryan's article was the absence of any discussion of the relativity of the “merger” to today's osteopathic profession—to put the “merger” in current perspective. The osteopathic profession has gone, over a period of 70 years, from discrimination and rejection to a state of acceptance and recognition, such as complete acceptance in governmental circles, positions in allopathic medical schools, and allopathic hospital staff appointments including chairmanships. Most of that, I feel, was due to actions of the AOA and state organizations, but especially the diligent work of hundreds—maybe thousands—of DOs who achieved individual recognition (by a hospital appointment here, by a journal article there, by activity in public health spheres, and the like). None of our progress came from the “merger.” 
The osteopathic resurgence in California produced a vibrant membership, plus 2 thriving osteopathic colleges. And, from appearances, there seems to be very little movement to trade the DO degree for the MD degree, even though I recognize that there will always be a few who want to make that switch. To me, the only effect of the “merger” was to give 2000 DOs there the option to change their degrees for $65; good or bad depends on one's viewpoint. And it took quite a while, so the Medical Board of California had to extend the deadline for purchasing the degree several times. 
Ms Ryan perhaps should have also consulted some other osteopathic literature, such as AOA publications of that time, state osteopathic publications, and minutes of the AOA House of Delegates, in order to provide balance to her research. Stressing 1 side or the other leaves readers with a skewed vision of the situation. 
I commend Ms Ryan on her hard work and her article; it is a start, and I welcome her to the osteopathic medical profession. 
Ryan HW. “Whatever you are, be a good one”: osteopathic identity, equality, and the California merger. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2011;111(5):339-343. [PubMed]
Archival & Historical Committee. Interview with Ethan R. Allen, DO, FACOFP. Arlington Heights, IL: American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians; 2007. Accessed September 1, 2011.