History of Osteopathy
Taylor Still, M.D. - Father of Osteopathic Medicine
Andrew Taylor Still was born on August 6, 1828 in Lee
County, Virginia. He was the third of nine children born to Abram and Martha
Still. His father was a Methodist
circuit-riding preacher and a physician. This
career led the family to move several times between 1834 and 1841. They
eventually settled in a post in Kansas as a result of his father’s strong
anti-slavery beliefs and sermons. In 1853,
Andrew Still followed his parents to Kansas, moving his wife, Mary
Vaughan, and his two young children. It
was here that he decided to become a physician.
apprenticed as a physician at his fathers side and attended formal medical
training in Baldwin, Kansas, receiving his M.D. degree.
Dr. Still served in the Civil War as a soldier first and then performed
the duties of a surgeon in the Union hospitals.
It was here that he grew disgusted at the ineffectiveness of 19th century
medicine which included such treatments as amputation, bleeding, purging and
calomel (a mercury based drug which rotted the teeth, gums, and cheeks of the patient).
He realized that many of the medications of his day were useless or even
harmful. However, his faith in medicine truly suffered as he watched three
of his children die from spinal meningitis and one from pneumonia despite the
best medical treatment available. His inability to save his family led Dr. Still to dedicate the next 10 years of his life to the intensive study
of Anatomy and Physiology in the hopes of finding a better, alternative means of
Dr. Still continued the use of some drugs at
first, but gradually achieved good results without them. This convinced him that
most diseases could be alleviated or cured without
drugs. He realized that the key was
to find and correct anatomical deviations that interfered with the free flow of
blood and "nerve force" in the body.
Dr. Still was also one of the
first in his time to study the attributes of good health so that he could better
understand the process of disease. This
led him to the founding of a philosophy of medicine based on ideas that dated
back to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. The philosophy focuses on the unity
and interconnectedness of all the body’s parts. He identified the
musculoskeletal system as a key element of health, determining that the
maintenance of proper structure by occasional manipulation, enabled the body to
function properly and to resist disease by empowering the immune system.
He also recognized that the body has an inherent ability to heal itself.
Dr. Still stressed preventative medicine, eating properly, and keeping fit.
On June 22nd 1874, Andrew Taylor Still first
elucidated the method and applications of an art and science he would name “Osteopathy”
(pronounced: ah-stee-AH-puh-thee). Osteopathic medicine
is a unique and holistic form of American medical care based upon and within the
human being is a dynamic unit of function
body possesses self-regulatory mechanisms which are self-healing in nature
and function are interrelated at all levels
Dr. Still presented his theories to his allopathic (M.D.)
colleagues who mocked him and accused him of quackery.
This led him to settle in Kirksville, Missouri where he found enough
acceptance to be allowed to open an office on the town square in March 1875.
Dr. Still's patients included
both settlers and American Indians. In his medical practice, he faced
epidemics such as cholera, pneumonia, malaria, smallpox, tuberculosis and
diphtheria. His treatments
included manipulation designed to imrpove circulation and to correct altered
mechanics. Dr. Still
slowly built up his reputation as word spread that his drugless, “hands-on”
manipulative medicine was able to cure many apparently hopeless cases.
He trained his children and a few others to assist him in his practice
when the numbers of patients increased beyond his ability to attend to them all.
Interest in Osteopathy grew leading him to form his own school, the
American School of Osteopathy (now the A.T.Still University of Health Sciences),
founded in Kirksville. The school received
its charter on May 10, 1892. The first class included five women
and sixteen men graduating with a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) degree in 1894.
Three of Dr. Still's children and one of his brothers were in the first class.
The school was a huge success, doubling in size by
1895. History reports that over 30,000 osteopathic treatments were given
that year. The local railroad increased its daily passenger trains to Kirksville
to accommodate the over 400 people who traveled to Kirksville daily to be
Dr. Still remained active in the American School of
Osteopathy throughout his later years, despite being greatly weakened by a
stroke in 1914. Dr. Andrew
Taylor Still died on December 12, 1917, at the age of 89.
Dr. Still pioneered the concept of wellness over 100 years
ago without the use of medications. In
the early 1900's medication and surgery, thoroughly researched and found
clinically practical, became a permanent part of the osteopathic medicine
curriculum. Today, there are 20
Osteopathic Medical Schools . These schools are almost identical to
allopathic (M.D.) medical schools with the exception of teaching 2 plus years of
Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine
(OMM) and granting the D.O. degree.
The majority of D.O. graduates specialize in primary care
fields, such as Family Practice, Internal Medicine, Obstetrics/Gynecology, and
Pediatrics. A few Osteopathic Physicians continue to value the wisdom of
Osteopathic practice focuses on the musculoskeletal system,
Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment
(OMT), diet, exercise, and fitness in the Prevention and
Maintenance of Total Health.
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