Saturday, October 23, 2010 at the SOMA House of Delegates Meeting in San Francisco, California, Derek Cheng, OMS II
Each year, the AOA provides students, interns, and residents with the opportunity to select from several core principles to write about that address our profession’s past struggles and achievements. I chose to address the challenges that DO's had to face in becoming accepted to the military as licensed physicians, in an essay entitled, “Osteopathic Medicine in the U.S. Military: The Battle for Equality and Distinction.”
In my essay, I recounted how DOs were denied the ability to serve as licensed physicians during World War I, even though there were physician shortages. Osteopathic medical training was not seen as equal to our allopathic counterpart and public acceptance of our profession was lagging. However, several notable events, including the addition of pharmacology to the osteopathic curriculum, the success of patients receiving treatment by DO's during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, and the 1961 California Merger—where 2,400 DO's traded in their degrees for MD degrees for the administrative fee of $65—allowed our profession to be seen as equally qualified as allopathic physicians.
Our profession struggled through World War II, the Korean War, and only until 1966 were DO's finally allowed to practice medicine in the military. However, I also addressed in my essay how gaining entry into the military and being seen as equals to MD's has also created a problem for us by failing to distinguish how we are unique from allopathic medicine.
The next step for our profession, then, is to push for more osteopathic medical research in the military, promote our holistic philosophy, and to use osteopathic manipulative treatments in the military when they are needed—such as fighter pilots with neck or lower back pain who are prohibited from taking medications prior to flying. This is where the extra training we have in osteopathic medicine is unique and advantageous.
Written by Derek Cheng, OMS II