In Your Words  |   January 2018
Gratitude: Reflections and Belonging in the Osteopathic Family
Author Notes
  • Disclaimer: Dr McClain, a JAOA associate editor, was not involved in the editorial review or decision to publish this article. 
  • Financial Disclosures: None reported. 
  • Support: None reported. 
  •  *Address correspondence to Elizabeth K. McClain, PhD, EdS, MPH, William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Box 207, 498 Tuscan Ave, Hattiesburg, MS 39401-5461. Email:
Article Information
Medical Education / Being a DO / In Your Words
In Your Words   |   January 2018
Gratitude: Reflections and Belonging in the Osteopathic Family
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, January 2018, Vol. 118, 56. doi:
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, January 2018, Vol. 118, 56. doi:
What does it truly mean to be part of the osteopathic family? I used to believe that membership to the osteopathic family was a privilege one gained after successful completion of a journey committed to osteopathic medical education and milestones. Even though I am involved with osteopathic medical education, I had always considered myself lucky to be grandfathered into the osteopathic family through my husband's DO credentials. He had completed the journey and I had benefited. However, in early 2017, I had an awakening and complete deconstruction of my “definition” of being a part of the osteopathic family. Little did I know that one event would change my view of the osteopathic community in a way that I could have never anticipated. 
On Thursday, January 21, 2017, at 3:45 am, the William Carrey University (WCU) campus located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was directly hit by an F-3 tornado. My husband and I were in Florida attending the Osteopathic Medical Education Leadership conference when the phone calls and text messages began pouring in just before the tornado touched down. My first concern, as a parent, was for the safety of our children, who were home and in the direct path of the storm in Hattiesburg. Within moments, the path of the storm shifted, and with it, my concern shifted to my second family—my osteopathic medical students, my colleagues, WCU staff—as well as all those who were near the WCU Campus. All through the morning I responded to texts from students and reached out to faculty and staff, but I felt helpless being so far away. 
My perceived vulnerability was far from my reality. I had a family of osteopathic leaders willing to listen to me, to be present with me, and to “walk with me” through these emotions and first moments. The depth of caring reflected the humanism and mindfulness that we as trainers and educators try so diligently to integrate into our students’ medical education and future clinical practice was clearly present in those around me. As I reflected on these osteopathic leaders, I thought about the diversity of that group that surrounded me with support. There were leaders and individuals from the American Osteopathic Association, the Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, as well as various osteopathic medical schools and medical student groups who reached out and offered their help and support. The intent, caring, and action was honest, pure, and driven. In the months following the tornado, I also reflected on the individuals who had selflessly offered that wave of support. Did they fit into what I had always considered part the osteopathic family? Although many did fit my original definition, I began to realize the osteopathic family included a unique level of breadth and diversity that I had failed to see before. 
This experience changed me, and I must assume it changed everyone who was involved. How could it not? Through this natural disaster, I truly understood what it meant to be a part of the osteopathic family. Osteopathic medicine does define us, but the experience is much more complex than DO letters. It is a belief in the human experience and how that experience affects all aspects of health and wellness. It is an understanding that individuals need compassion and care in illness and in health. It is the willingness to be present, embrace diversity in mind, body, and spirit and accept individual differences as strengths. It is the willingness to serve others without question. Above all, it is the ability to value the true sense of community. 
It would be impossible to thank everyone who embraced WCU during our time of need. The support from the osteopathic community provided me with a renewed and deeper level of respect and honor for the medical education community I call home and the osteopathic community I so fondly call my osteopathic family.