A History of Osteopathic Medicine in the United States
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A History of Osteopathic Medicine in the United States

September 13, 2022

As he practiced medicine in the mid-1800s, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still was dissatisfied by what he saw. In 1874, he introduced a novel approach to medical care based on the philosophy that all body systems are interrelated and interdependent on their structure and function for good health. 

David Fuller, DO, FAAO, FNAOME, professor and second-year course director of the Osteopathic Principles and Practice course at PCOM, explained that Dr. Still recognized that each individual has a unified mind, body and spirit.

“He also acknowledged that everyone’s body has an inherent ability to heal itself,” Fuller said. “Dr. Still emphasized that optimal health can best be achieved by addressing the neuromusculoskeletal systems in patient care.” 

Osteopathic medicine students in a classroom in an undated photo.These beliefs led Still to develop a sophisticated approach of hands-on osteopathic diagnosis and treatment, which he integrated into conventional medical care. In 1892, Still founded the first osteopathic medical school. In the years that followed, osteopathic medicine grew as new medical ideas and paradigms were incorporated. In 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), became the third osteopathic school in the United States.

According to Kristie Petree, DO, an associate professor and OMM chair at PCOM South Georgia, osteopathic medicine has flourished since those early years.

“There are now nearly 40 osteopathic colleges with over 50 teaching locations across the United States,” Petree said. “These colleges are educating more than 34,000 future osteopathic physicians, which is more than 25 percent of all U.S. medical school students.”

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In addition to its main campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, PCOM operates two locations in Georgia. PCOM Georgia, located in Suwanee, Georgia in the metro Atlanta area, opened in 2005. PCOM South Georgia, located in Moultrie, opened in 2019.

“PCOM has become one of the leading osteopathic schools in the United States,” Petree said. “Our graduates are well-trained in all aspects of modern medicine, across all medical and surgical specialties with a foundation in osteopathic medicine.”

These precepts, Petree explained, include recognizing the body, mind and spirit as a single unit, capable of self-regulation and self-healing. This incorporates the use of hands-on osteopathic diagnosis and treatment to maximize the health of patients integrated into a comprehensive approach that includes the full scope of the practice of medicine and surgery, she added.

Fuller and Petree encourage prospective students to learn more about osteopathic medicine in general and PCOM in particular.

“Our past is meaningful and interesting,” Fuller said. “and our future is bright.”