Monday, September 07, 2009

Osteopathic Medicine

Today I finally got serious about the chapter I am to contribute, called "Humble Beginnings"--and believe me, they were humble--to the 40-year history of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. Reading the 20-year history, which I wrote, obviously 20 years ago, took me on a real trip down memory lane. As the preface says, I was born into the "osteopathic family" as was my brother: when we were kids we could count 18 D.O.s in the famiily--uncles, fathers, even a cousin or a cousin married to one. John's father was one of four brothers who studied osteopathic medicine; my father was the president of the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine for 40 years. No wonder I married an osteopathic student! People today still ask me what osteopthic medicine is, which astonishes me in this day and age. Basically (and if John is reading this i hope he thinks I got it right) it's a system of healing developed by Andrew Taylor Still in the nineteenth century in Kirksville, Missouri. Still discovered, according to legend, that a headache would ease if he lay sideways in a hammock, with his head hanging over the edge and the border of the hammock putting putting pressure on the back of his neck just under his skull. Eventually he came to the theory that many bodily ills were the result of misalignment of the body, hence osteopathic manipulation (of which chiropractic medicine is an offshoot). The theory has been refined over the years, and osteopathic physicians are now trained in all the sophisticated specialties of medicine such as surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedics, and on down a long list (look at the phone book of any large city). Unfortunately, manipulative medicine has disappeared from the repetoire of most D.O. physicians, although that was John's specialty toward the end of his practicing years--he's now ten years or so retired. Theoretically, though, the osteopathic emphasis is on health as a way of life and treating the body so as to achieve maximum well-being rather than treating the disease. Aha! Preventive medicine, which M.D.s came to late in the game.
Back to TCOM--as I reviewed my earlier book, I ran into all kinds of memories and people now gone--George Luibel, who had the idea of a Texas college in the 1960s and the vision to make it work, enlisting two other doctors as co-founders; there was a saying going around in those days, "Let George do it"--and he did! Legislative work, dealings with the American Osteopathic Association, all those things. He was also a good friend of my father's and the man I went to when my back hurt--I can still hear him demand, "Who in the hell taught you to sit that way?" when he discovered me in his waiting room with my feet twisted around each other--his motto was "Eyes and toes in the same direction all the time."
And Ray Stokes, the pr man who was the college's first employee, and did all the organizational work; Dr. Henry Hardt, the first dean, a wonderful man who faced doing what few have done--building a medical school from scratch--and did it with a sweet dispoisition but a German hard-headedness. My good friend Dr. Mary Lu Schunder, who taught anatomy to twenty students that first year in a garage appartment.
I am not really a part of the osteopathic community these days. I've been divorced from my surgeon/husband for almost thirty years, and many of my friends in the profession have died--though I remain close to a few. Wednesday I'll pick up Charles and we'll go to the TCOM retirees lunch--he likes to take me as his guest, and I see a few people there I recognize from the "old days." I guess I'll always think of myself as part of the community, though the college has now grown to a sprawling campus with several hundred students and faculty. From humble beginnings indeed . . . tomorrow I'll call a couple of friends who were students in the second class and try to interview them over the telephone. I'd put this project off, but now I've got my teeth into it, I'm enjoying it. Memory Lane is a good place to stroll.

No comments: