Osteopath Anne E. Musser presented at Sunday’s Anchorage Science Pub on the difference between a DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) and an MD (Medical Doctor). Musser is the Medical Director of the Anchorage Providence Family Medicine Center. She started with a brief history lesson.
The philosophy of osteopathic medicine was developed by Andrew Taylor Still in the late 1800s, who lost three children to disease at a time when germ theory was still gaining traction and treatment generally consisted of bleeding or purging a patient. According to Musser, Still saw a connection between the mind, body, and spirit.
“That the body is a unit. That a person is a unit of mind, body, and spirit. The body is capable of self-regulation and self-health maintenance. That structure and function are interrelated, and rational treatment is based on those other things. This was the first time that the idea of the body being a unit of mind, body, and spirit was articulated. If we could help the body be aligned, the structure and function and align and heal itself.”
Musser’s presentation was very deliberate, almost like someone giving one side of an argument instead of a simple educational presentation. And that makes sense, given the context of the push back Musser said osteopaths had received from other medical practitioners since the field was developed. Osteopaths were not recognized as doctors by the U.S. government during World War I, and not much progress had been made by World War II. But by the Vietnam War, the government had begun to recognize the value of osteopaths. As with many social issues, Musser said once the osteopathic physicians were accepted by the military, it wasn’t long before insurance companies and licensing boards followed suit.
Alaska’s osteopaths are licensed by the same board as our medical doctors, though that’s not the case in all 50 states. Musser said practitioners in her field still struggled as a minority culture with the medical majority culture. Musser’s attitude was positive, despite this sense of constantly having to prove the value of her field. “We try hard to maintain distinction from MDs, but we do embrace other medical advances. It’s been difficult to prove that we’re just as good as MDs without becoming MDs.” She seemed enthusiastic to speak about her work, and despite a somewhat prickly Q&A session (which you can view in the video below), she maintained her focus on educating the audience about her work. She even gave a practical demonstration on osteopathic manipulative therapy with one of the science pub organizers.