From “Doctor of Osteopathy” to “Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine”: A Title Change in the Push for Equality

Norman Gevitz, PhD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: June 24, 2013

Accepted: October 22, 2013

Published: June 1, 2014

J Osteopath Med; 114(6): 486-497

Nationally, the California merger created great solidarity among osteopathic members of state and national osteopathic associations. They rebuffed further efforts at amalgamation and championed the continuation of the DO degree. Even after the American Medical Association (AMA) opened its doors to DOs to join local and state medical associations as well as the AMA itself and gave its blessing to them entering allopathic residency programs and becoming MD board certified, the DOs stood fast for their independence. Yet some across the country wanted to become known as MDs. A few osteopathic physicians even went to federal court to claim—unsuccessfully—that state medical boards’ refusal to license them or allow them to identify themselves as MDs violated their constitutional rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments. In the mid-1990s, the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) gave individual osteopathic medical colleges the option of indicating on their diplomas that the DO degree signified “Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine” rather than “Doctor of Osteopathy,” a change that paralleled previous AOA policy changes regarding appropriate professional language. Nevertheless, some DOs and particularly a sizable number of osteopathic medical students continued to write of their desire for a change in the degree osteopathic medical colleges awarded. However, in July 2008 the AOA House of Delegates unanimously reaffirmed its commitment to continuing the traditional DO degree.

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