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Osteopathic Medicine

Osteopathic Medical Education Growing at Record Levels

Photo: Courtesy of Courtesy of New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine-Arkansas Campus

Robert A. Cain, DO, FACOI, FAODME

President and CEO, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)

When Dr. A.T. Still opened the American School of Osteopathy in a two-room building in 1892, he was following his dream to introduce a new method for treating patients, a new philosophy of healing. The 21 men and women who made up the school’s first graduating class were also following their own dreams of becoming physicians who looked beyond just prescribing the unreliable, and oftentimes unhealthy, drugs of the day.

What began in a small Missouri town almost 130 years ago was a view of treating the whole patient — mind, body, and spirit. Today, doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) play a large and critical role in our nation’s healthcare system. Therefore, ensuring they are highly skilled, trained, and educated is essential to the future of America’s public health network.

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Expanding network

While the A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine is still going strong, it is now part of an ever-growing network of osteopathic medical schools. Today, 25 percent of all medical students in the United States are trained in one of the 37 accredited Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (COM). 

Spread out across 33 states and 58 locations, these schools offer students the highest caliber classroom experience, lab training, and clinical work, all enhanced with training that focuses on osteopathic principles and osteopathic manipulative medicine. And these principles have never been more popular.


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Applications to osteopathic medical schools hit record levels during the 2020-20201 application cycle. In November, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), which manages and tracks the application process, reported application numbers were up more than 16 percent from the previous year and had hit an all-time high. Even more impressive, these numbers were reported several months before application deadlines. 

“We have seen steady growth in osteopathic medicine over the years, and this cycle’s record application pool confirms that prospective medical students are recognizing the appeal and value of osteopathic medical education,” said Robert A. Cain, DO, FACOI, FAODME, president and CEO of AACOM. “Doctors of osteopathic medicine are ‘physicians with a philosophy.’ We focus on overall health and wellness, making sure we look at the whole person — mind, body and spirit — and are not just focused on treating the disease. In these complicated and stressful times, that philosophy is resonating with more and more students.”

Increasing visibility

AACOM — and the schools it represents — has developed some innovative new programs to increase awareness and outreach to prospective students who embrace the osteopathic philosophy. Virtual medical school fairs, including ones aimed at increasing diversity in the application pool, have helped recruitment over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Launched in 2019, the ChooseDO Explorer is a fully searchable database that allows students to explore all accredited colleges of osteopathic medicine in the United States and easily navigate application deadlines, tuition rates, and other important stats with just a few clicks. 

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Across the United States, more than 131,000 practicing DOs are treating patients across the spectrum of healthcare. As primary care practitioners, emergency room doctors, heart surgeons, pediatricians, and throughout all medical specialty areas, these doctors are improving the quality of life for millions of Americans. 

Educating and training the next generation of doctors is a sacred responsibility and one that AACOM and its members take very seriously. There is no doubt that if A.T. Still could see how the numbers of osteopathic students, schools, and doctors have grown, he would be very proud.

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