Free
Letters to the Editor  |   September 2011
Response
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Hayley W. Ryan, OMS III
    Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Pennsylvania
  •    Editor's Note: Ms Ryan's essay won first place in the 2010 history essay competition, which was held by the AOA's Bureau of Osteopathic History and Identity. The submission deadline for this year's competition is October 3, 2011. Visit http://www.do-online.org/TheDO/?p=66991 for more information.
     
Article Information
Medical Education / Being a DO / Graduate Medical Education
Letters to the Editor   |   September 2011
Response
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, September 2011, Vol. 111, 530. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2011.111.9.530
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, September 2011, Vol. 111, 530. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2011.111.9.530
I thank Drs Perrotta1 and Melnick2 for reading my May article3 and for their great interest in the subject. I appreciate Dr Melnick's criticism2 and apologize for any errors or inconsistencies he may have come across based on his personal experiences during that period. 
I constructed the article last fall to enter the annual history essay competition sponsored by the American Osteopathic Association's Bureau of Osteopathic History and Identity. The essay was based on a small body of primary research (a collection of personal documents from Dorothy Marsh, DO, at the University of California, Los Angeles), and as such, it was meant to be an exploration of one person's role in a complex political maneuver. It was by no means an exhaustive history of the California merger; it was intended to add to the body of historical work already written on the subject. 
As to the question of bias, I want to assure Dr Melnick that I had no intention of deifying Dr Marsh. In fact, as a California native and proud DO student, my personal opinion of her actions is far from positive. I often wonder how many more osteopathic hospitals and residency programs we would have in my home state had this setback never occurred. Yet, whether you call it a setback, a “sellout,” or a merger, it was a major event in the history of our profession that warrants a nuanced analysis. 
One of the most valuable lessons I learned while training in the History of Science and Medicine program at Yale University was to avoid “presentism” in the depiction of medical history. In order to make a valid historical argument, we were encouraged to look closely at the environment we were studying and to get inside the heads of the people involved. It is not appropriate to pass judgment or condemn the actions of historical actors based on subsequent events or current knowledge. 
The more I read about the California merger, the more I wondered what psychological and political factors drove some 2000 osteopathic physicians to forgo their professional identity (for $65) in an attempt to assimilate into the MD world. While reading through the materials in Dr Marsh's collection, I found numerous shades of gray in the decision of many DOs to support this proposition. My objective was simply to elucidate some of those gray areas. 
Dr Marsh was no hero, but she was a dynamic speaker and a well-respected obstetrician-gynecologist who played a large role in garnering support for the merger. I felt that an analysis of her motivations (as reflected in the primary documents I consulted) would shed light on complex issues of equality and professional identity—issues that are still relevant to today's osteopathic physicians and osteopathic medical students. 
References
Perrotta AL. “Whatever you are, be a good one”: osteopathic identity, equality, and the California merger [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2011;111(9):528-529. [PubMed]
Melnick A. “Whatever you are, be a good one”: osteopathic identity, equality, and the California merger [letter]. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2011;111(9):529-530. [PubMed]
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]