Letters to the Editor  |   March 2011
Redirect Terminology Debate Toward Improved Definition of Osteopathic Medicine
Author Affiliations
  • Leslie Mae-Geen Ching, DO
    OGME-1, Doctors Hospital Family Practice Residency, Grove City, Ohio
Article Information
Medical Education / Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment / Professional Issues / Psychiatry / Graduate Medical Education / Curriculum / Osteopathic Cranial Manipulative Medicine
Letters to the Editor   |   March 2011
Redirect Terminology Debate Toward Improved Definition of Osteopathic Medicine
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, March 2011, Vol. 111, 142-174. doi:
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, March 2011, Vol. 111, 142-174. doi:
To the Editor:  
With all due respect to those who have been in the osteopathic medical profession longer than I have, it is my humble opinion that the debate over osteopathic terminology is much less important than the debate over what osteopathic medicine itself means. This issue is admirably discussed, in the context of psychiatry, by Niall McLaren, MBBS,1 in his special communication article in the December 2010 issue of JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. 
The terminology debate makes me wonder how many of the people who want to change the term osteopathy in the cranial field (OCF) actually practice OCF—or even feel that OCF is a valid therapeutic approach. It would be interesting to poll the members of the American Academy of Osteopathy, the Cranial Academy, or the Sutherland Cranial Teaching Foundation to see if any of these individuals, who are much more likely than the average DO to either practice OCF or to defend its efficacy, would favor a terminology change to something that does not involve the apparently maligned term osteopathy. Perhaps these members would feel loyalty to the term because they see value in osteopathy. 
One can be an osteopathic physician without practicing osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). However, I suspect that someone who practices OMT is more likely to proudly identify himself or herself as a DO and to provide good reasons, both in word and deed, as to how osteopathic medicine is different. Could these same things be said of those who want to completely eliminate the term osteopathy from usage? 
Perhaps energy spent toward changing terms would be better spent further defining the meaning of osteopathic medicine and the reasons that osteopathic medicine is important as a separate system. Such explanations would allow every osteopathic medical student in every college of osteopathic medicine (COM), no matter how new the COM, to feel like he or she is part of a well-defined profession with a clearly defined mission—as opposed to feeling like he or she is merely in a medical school with additional curricula that is not respected by most basic science teachers or clinical preceptors. 
Why does the American Osteopathic Association's Intern/Resident Registration Program (ie, the AOA “Match”) have so few applicants, as per the letter by Kenneth J. Steier, DO,2 in the December 2010 JAOA? Go to most any COM and ask the students. If they are being honest, most will tell you that they feel that anything “osteopathic” is subpar. And why is that? Perhaps it is partially because there is no clearly defined aspect of osteopathic medicine except OMT, which most of their clinical preceptors (who are MDs close to half of the time3) do not actually practice. 
McLaren N. Toward an osteopathic psychiatry: the biocognitive model of mind. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110(12):725-732.
Steier KJ. Is something wrong with osteopathic graduate medical education [letter]? J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2010;110(12):740-741.
Teitelbaum HS. Osteopathic Medical Education in the United States: Improving the Future of Medicine. Chevy Chase, MD: American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine; 2005:41-42 Accessed February 9, 2011.