Editorial  |   September 2018
History of Research at Midwestern University/Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine
Author Notes
  • Dr Nichols is the former dean of Midwestern University/Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. 
  • Financial Disclosures: None reported. 
  • Support: None reported. 
  •  *Address correspondence to Karen J. Nichols, DO, MA, Midwestern University/Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, 555 31st St, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1235. Email:
Article Information
Medical Education
Editorial   |   September 2018
History of Research at Midwestern University/Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, September 2018, Vol. 118, 569-571. doi:
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, September 2018, Vol. 118, 569-571. doi:
Midwestern University/Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (MWU/CCOM) is a prominent player in the research arena with a mix of basic science and clinical research emphasis. In the 2016-2017 academic year, MWU/CCOM faculty submitted 10 extramural grants totaling $3,757,975 and had $1,722,582 active extramurally funded research awards. In the same academic year, 18 peer-reviewed publications originated out of MWU/CCOM, and an additional 6 publications were coauthored by faculty. During the 2017 annual Kenneth Suarez Research Day, 49 of 199 posters from the university as a whole were presented by MWU/CCOM students. In addition, 34 MWU/CCOM students were awarded funded summer research fellowships on campus. 
MWU/CCOM's Historical Roots in Research
Such successes in research at MWU/CCOM (previously called the Chicago College of Osteopathy [CCO]) did not happen overnight. Osteopathic research has had a long history in Chicago starting with the creation of a research institute in 1913. As described by Berchtold, “The Chicago Osteopathic Association and the Illinois Osteopathic Association purchased a large private home,” which was “presented to the Research Institute as a gift to help celebrate the 85th birthday of Andrew Taylor Still, founder of osteopathy. It was, fittingly, named the A.T. Still Research Institute [ATSRI].”1(p51) The ATSRI “became closely allied with the work of the [CCO]. It was staffed primarily by faculty members from CCO,” including 9 DOs.1(p51) Renowned osteopathic researcher Louisa Burns, DO, moved to Chicago in 1914 to join the ATSRI.1(p52) Unfortunately, by 1918 the ATSRI was in serious financial trouble exacerbated by the death of its business manager and the resignation of the chair of the Institute's Board of Trustees.1(p71) The original funding pledges were not fully consummated, and the beautiful mansion was “about the least adaptable place on earth for research laboratories.”1(p72) The mansion was sold for a small profit and the research was transferred to the Pacific branch of the Institute at Los Angeles.1(p72) 
Despite the collapse of the ATSRI, a research emphasis continued at the CCO. Prominent in this effort was Albert Kelso, PhD, who in 1946 was one of the first PhDs hired to teach at the CCO. According to the MWU/CCOM Archivist Dan Grooms, over the course of his career, Kelso presented the American Academy of Osteopathy 1971 and 1981 Louisa Burns Memorial Lectures, the latter entitled “Planning, Developing and Conducting Osteopathic Clinical Research”; he developed laboratory facilities at MWU/CCOM, encouraging students and faculty to develop research as part of their careers; and he was the first recipient of the Gutensohn-Denslow Award from the American Osteopathic Association (email communication, May 3, 2018). 
Another prominent MWU/CCOM researcher was Kenneth A. Suarez, PhD, professor of pharmacology, who joined the faculty in 1972. He expanded research interest across the osteopathic medical profession (Grooms, email communication, May 3, 2018). 
However, the premier osteopathic researcher at MWU/CCOM was Robert A. Kappler, DO. Dr Kappler was a 1958 graduate of the CCO, following in the footsteps of his father, Oscar Kappler, DO, a 1930 CCO graduate. R. Kappler was a prolific researcher and author, with nearly 70 publications and book chapters to his credit published from 1971 to 2003. His most noted work was as coauthor of the 1999 New England Journal of Medicine article comparing osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) with standard care for patients with low back pain.2 He received every award in the osteopathic medical profession, including being named the AOA Educator of the Year in 2004. In one of his lasting legacies, R. Kappler developed the MWU/CCOM osteopathic medicine fellows program and started their clinic project, both of which are still running today (Grooms, email communication, May 3, 2018). 
Reflections From a Long-Time Faculty Member
Chair of Pharmacology Walter C. Prozialeck, PhD, has been at MWU/CCOM since 1991. He recently reminisced (personal communication, May 17, 2018) about the research culture at the school. 
“One of the first things I noticed when I started working at MWU/CCOM was the strong, ingrained culture of research among the basic science faculty and even the administration. Research activities were fostered, valued, and rewarded within that culture.” According to Prozialeck, almost all faculty were able to maintain productive research programs. 
A second aspect of the MWU/CCOM culture was the high level of interactions between the clinical and basic science faculty. “At that time—late 1980s to early 2000s—the Osteopathic Principles and Practice Department housed the Center for Osteopathic Research, Education, and Development (CORED). By sponsoring monthly seminars and discussions between basic scientists and clinicians, CORED played a key role in fostering collaborative research programs.” These joint projects generated a significant amount of extramural support and resulted in numerous publications. 
The annual Ward Perrin Clinical Refresher Course at MWU/CCOM also fostered collaboration between clinicians and basic scientists. Even though this was a continuing medical education program for osteopathic physicians, basic science faculty were encouraged to participate as speakers or to sit in on clinical presentations. From Prozialeck's point of view, “The interactions that resulted from these programs fostered a culture of mutual respect and collaboration.” 
It is also noteworthy that the culture of research and intellectual curiosity extended to the students, a group of whom founded the J. Martin Littlejohn Academy. “This was an informal group that included students, faculty, and staff who would meet each month to present and discuss various topics of interest, including both medical and nonmedical issues.” Some of the topics Prozialeck remembered being discussed were “Cocaine Use and Abuse Through the Ages,” “An Overview of the Physiology of Nitric Oxide,” and even “A Guide to Home Brewing.” Prozialeck believes that these informal discussions made a big impact: “They fostered positive interactions among students, faculty, and staff, and they even generated the development of some significant research projects.” 
As Prozialeck put it, “I think that the research culture I encountered at MWU/CCOM in the early 1990s was truly unique. I am pleased that this culture has persisted to this day and that it has had a huge impact on the development of Midwestern University and specifically the osteopathic college.” 
Research at MWU/CCOM Today
This long and distinguished research culture at MWU/CCOM thrives to this day. The PhD and DO collaboration has been a hallmark of this culture, which persists well into the second century of this institution. Included in this issue of The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association are diverse publications that continue to promote collaboration between osteopathic physicians and basic scientists. 
The current educational and research emphasis of Midwestern University globally focuses on the One Health Initiative, reflecting the complex relationships between health of the environment, animals, and humans. The article by Prozialeck and Edwards3 reports on the use of this paradigm as a framework for the growth and development of ongoing MWU research programs. While the One Health concept may be considered new by some, it is truly the basis of osteopathic medicine, which has always looked at the person as a whole seen in the context of the entire environment. 
Another article4 in this collection, led by an osteopathic medical student, is a literature review of a naturally occurring polyphenol, resveratrol, which is found in several human dietary sources. The article reviews the compound's mechanisms of action in various positive effects on health. 
The empathy and osteopathic manipulative medicine study5 by Rizkalla and Henderson posits that there is a correlation between student empathy levels, as measured in several subcomponents, and favorable impressions of osteopathic manipulative medicine. This assessment across all 4 classes of MWU/CCOM students is also the first step in the longitudinal empathy study underway at the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. While the larger longitudinal study will likely continue for some time,6 early findings such as those described by Rizkalla and Henderson can instruct future research and practice differences. The question as to how DO students differ from MD students is an old one, and this analysis may lead to a better understanding of that issue. 
In an article by Rizkalla et al,7 the authors present the rationale for a study protocol looking at how OMT may make a neuropsychological difference in adults with pain. The often-seen cognitive impairment in patients who are in pain has not been studied from the perspective of the OMT-mediated relief of pain having a physiologic mechanism in the brain and therefore a direct effect on cognition. 
The historical collaboration between osteopathic physicians and basic scientists that MWU/CCOM has always been known for continues to be an important contributing factor to research productivity. This collaboration bridges disparate fields of study and brings together different perspectives that will ultimately continue to contribute to an important body of knowledge. This contribution is not only in One Health, but also in the bigger context of what and how osteopathic medicine contributes to overall health and well-being, which is still incompletely understood. 
Berchtold TA. To Teach, To Heal, To Serve: A History of the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, The First Seventy-Five Years: 1900-1975. Chicago, IL: Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine; 1975.
Andersson GB, Lucente T, Davis AM, Kappler RE, Lipton JA, Leurgans S. A comparison of osteopathic spinal manipulation with standards care for patients with low back pain. N Engl J Med. 1999:341(19):1426-1431. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199911043411903 [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Prozialeck WC, Edwards JR. The One Health Initiative as a basis for research development in the Department of Pharmacology at Midwestern University. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2018;118(9):610-616. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2018.135
Kulashekar M, Stom SM, Peuler JD. Resveratrol's potential in the adjunctive management of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer disease, and cancer. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2018;118(9):596-605. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2018.133
Rizkalla MN, Henderson KK. Empathy and osteopathic manipulative medicine: is it all in the hands? J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2018;118(9):573-585. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2018.131
Newton BW. Insights on the nationwide Project in Osteopathic Medical Education and Empathy (POMEE). J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2018;118(6):e28-e32. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2018.076 [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Rizkalla MN, Henderson KK, Huntington-Alfano Ket al.   Does osteopathic manipulative treatment make a neuropsychological difference in adults with pain? a rationale for a new approach. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2018;118(9):617-622. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2018.136