Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Culture of Osteopathy

--Disclaimer: I started writing this on Sunday (Sept 22) night, but then got tired and wanted to go to bed and wasn't feeling inspired enough to finish it until today.  I'm too lazy to go back and fix all the dates of stuff, so pretend it's Sunday.--

I mentioned in my last post how I was elected as one of my class's student representatives, well I then also decided to be on the SGA(Student Government Association)  E-board as the Public Relations Officer.  To be honest, I had no idea what E-board even stood for or meant (Executive Board), but I knew that I wanted to be as involved with school as I can and the main responsibility that came along with the title was to take care of the website, and since my tag line is- "I'm good at the internet." I thought, why not?

Because I'm a member of the SGA E-board, I had the opportunity to have dinner with the President of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), his wife, Dean Kelley (our Dean of Constitutive Services), and all the student leaders of the SGA and SOMA (Student Osteopathic Medical Association) tonight and it was a really amazing dinner.  Besides the fact that the food was delicious and the restaurant we went to was beautiful (I devoured my entire meal of scallops, green beans, and mashed potatoes), hearing Dr. Vinn talk about osteopathy and the culture of osteopathic medicine really made me think.

I think it's very fair to say that a decent number of us students of osteopathic medicine got into osteopathy not really knowing exactly what it is.  Sure, we knew it was an approach to medicine that was more about the whole body and finding health instead of focusing on disease, but what does that really mean?  I still struggle with trying to explain exactly what me becoming a DO instead of an MD really means to my friends and family, but hearing Dr. Vinn's answer to what being an osteopathic physician means to him just reaffirmed once again that this is exactly what I want to be doing.

He stressed that being an osteopathic physician is being apart of a family. It's about connecting.  It's about connecting to our patients and our colleagues and caring about one another.  It's about helping each other out.  It's about seeing people and patients as complex beings and being cognizant of more than just what is wrong with them.  It's about touch.  It's about physical touch, it's about emotional touch.  It's about so much more than getting a history, running some labs, and diagnosing the patient and sending them on their way to keep wandering around in the darkness while they look for health as they circle around disease.  It's about the connection.

After almost two months of being here I already see how the osteopathic touch is really an incredible asset in medicine.  The first time we learned the real OMM (OMM stands for Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine - which is where we use our hands to introduce health into the patients body by working their musculoskeletal system ...I'm still working on my definitions for things to make it easy to really understand what we do)..but the first time we learned the real good OMM techniques we all left class feeling AMAZING.  Actually, half of our class have OMM on Wednesday and the other half have it on Thursday -- I have it on Thursday, and Wednesday night I ran into some friends at the local coffee shop who were raving about the OMM class and how great they all felt after having spent three hours practicing on each other in class. They were right.  We were learning a lot of techniques that worked out problems in the neck and back area and I left class, changed out of my sportswear, and texted my partner I was working with that day how I felt like I could actually breathe better.  Which is a HUGE deal for me.  I do not have great lung capacity,  ask my cardiologist, ask my speech therapist--they will tell you.  Also, this may or may not be related but anatomically I have two left lungs. Add in the fact that my spine is fused together and you can see how I clearly don't have a lot of movement in my back area, and I really felt the difference when I left class.

But it's not just that.  It's the fact that osteopathic medicine is all about that physical connection with the patient.  There is a really big problem of depression and mental illnesses in our society and it's because we don't touch and connect with each other.  We're all so scared of showing affection, but we are literally killing ourselves because we're depriving ourselves of that human connection.  Dr. Vinn said tonight that DOs are huggers, and they are! I noticed that it's in his nature to touch people when he's talking to them, a gentle hand on the shoulder to show them he's listening.  I think more behavior like that could really help people out.

I just really loved what he said about the osteopathic culture being a family.  I already feel like my class and the school act like a family.  We have weekly Sunday dinners and on Saturday we got a group together to go apple picking and it sort of made me laugh because while there were about 15 of us who went, we wanted to all stick together as a group and not split up into a bunch of little groups. The second years help us out like older siblings and really make school a lot easier with their block reviews and old notes and general advice.  I can walk through the school and first years, seconds years, and even faculty will say hi to me and use my name.  This isn't the kill or be killed environment you're used to from your undergrad--we're all here to help each other out, we're already living the life of an osteopathic physician and I don't think we know it.  I can go up to anyone and ask them for help on a certain subject, I can go into the lunch room by myself but within ten minutes find myself at a table full of medical students, and I can go into a social situation only knowing a few people and come out a few friends richer.  That is what I love about this school, it's a true community, and that is what Dr. Vinn was saying is one of the hallmarks of osteopathic medicine, and luckily for me I found a school that already has that so engrained in it's culture.