D.O.’s and medical education revisited

Photo by Casey Gomez

Several weeks ago, I wrote a piece titled “D.O. schools lack originality and purpose,” which, in hindsight, was a rather rash title as it did not quite convey what my issues with D.O. schools were. 

Understandably, there was a lot of blowback from those who felt that I was being unfair to the existence of this cohort of medical schools and suggesting that somehow the D.O. medical title carries less weight than a traditional medical degree. 

I would like to clarify that my piece was not an attack on the existence of such schools or their students, but was seeking to question how professed holistic care is carried out in clinical practice, as well as the real need for an entirely separate conglomeration of schools and medical licensing needed to bridge the healthcare gap, to those holistic ends. 

While I still think that there is limited research that can speak to the large-scale effects of a bifurcated medical educational system, I did speak to my favorite Tech pre-health advisor, Francisco Castelan, in an effort to further my own understanding of D.O. schools and to seek out a more seasoned and expert opinion running counter my own, as well as more personal research into the topic. Francisco was able to provide a direct personal account and statistics from the American Osteopathic Association OMP Report that speak to the efficacy of D.O.’s in practice and opened my eyes to some of the arguments made by D.O. schools that they manage to do some things better in the realm of medical education. 

He brought up a great counterpoint to the lower numerical threshold for admitted students, that part of it is an attempt to stay true to D.O. schools’ values in holistic and diverse education and lower barriers of entry for disadvantaged students wishing to enter medicine. This, I recognize, is difficult to balance with maintaining the ‘rigorous’ academic standards that society has come to expect from medical school candidates. From our conversation about applied holistic care and osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMP), I see parallels between practices in my own cultural background like acupuncture and traditional medicine, and the approach that osteopathic doctors take in exploring alternative solutions grounded in empirical evidence in diagnosing and treating patients before recommending more invasive procedures and surgical operations, which are incentivized by the nature of our current market healthcare system. 

I clearly still have a lot to learn about the medical education system, but I also know that the medical education system is grossly inefficient and imperfect, that aspiring to attend medical school should not discourage pre-health students from voicing the critiques that many harbor about the medical educational system as an institution. I still remain unconvinced that creating a separate branch of medical education is the most efficient way to improve the overall efficacy and quality of treatment for people seeking care.

It seems that it would be more beneficial and consistent to somehow reach a happy medium of both D.O. and MD standardized curricula in all schools rather than continuing to open schools that also mainly serve to turn a profit in addition to purportedly acting in the interests of
patients themselves. 

For students that would like to know more, there will be an educational expo with Tech alumni this month on Wednesday, Nov. 20. As Castelan told me, and which I wholeheartedly agree with: “Part of preparing for a career in medicine is to understand the complete spectrum of healthcare professionals, including the practice of Osteopathic profession…the objective should be to understand what the osteopathic practice consists of and if the approach is a good fit…” 

Watching my own parent have to endure the last six months of being referred to doctor after doctor, unable to reach a diagnosis for troubling symptoms is a sign to me that now is the best time to be having discussions about medical education and direct consequences in patient care, and that consistent dissemination of information and perspectives is paramount.