A base initiative is transforming the way 16 Air Force osteopathic medical residents receive their training.
Through a collaborative effort with St. Louis University, St. Elizabeth’s and SIHF Healthcare, Air Force osteopathic residents are undergoing a comprehensive three-year training program, which is a departure from the conventional medical training path.
According to the American Osteopathic Association, Osteopathic medicine is one of the fastest-growing healthcare professions in the country, with one out of every four medical students enrolled in an osteopathic medical school. Accounting for approximately 11 percent of all physicians in the United States, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, apply a unique patient-centered approach to the full spectrum of care.
This program implemented here recently received the prestigious Osteopathic Recognition Status from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education due to its excellence.
"We're honored to be one of the six family medicine residencies in the Air Force,” explained Lt. Col. Pamela Hughes, 375th Healthcare Operations Squadron military programs director. “After four years of undergraduate studies and another four in medical school, physicians reach a pivotal point where they decide their specialization. Our three-year family medicine program prepares them to care for patients across the lifespan, from birth to end-of-life, including pregnancies and inpatient care."
Osteopathic recognition offers education that goes beyond the traditional or conventional model. By providing the requirements, skills, and opportunities for residents to immerse themselves in osteopathic principles, these programs contribute to a healthcare landscape that values not only the treatment of symptoms but also the cultivation of a patient's overall health and wellness.
The AOA points out that DOs receive special training in the musculoskeletal system, muscles and bones and that by combining this knowledge with the latest advances in medical technology, they offer patients the most comprehensive care available in healthcare today.
By focusing on prevention and tuning into how a patient’s lifestyle and environment can impact their well-being, DOs strive to help their patients be truly healthy in mind, body, and spirit — not just free of symptoms.
“Osteopathic medicine can be much faster in the relief we can provide patients because we can often do some treatments that leave the patient feeling better that day,” said Maj. Julie Creech-Organ, 375th HOS director of osteopathic education. “I think it's fun to be able to not only do that as a physician, but also teach others to do that.”
A prominent aspect of osteopathic medicine is the manipulation-type treatment, often associated with the distinctive “Snap, crackle, pop” sound produced during high-velocity low-amplitude maneuvers. These techniques go beyond spinal adjustments and also encompass soft tissue approaches to address chronic pathologies that result from the body’s adaptations to its environment. The goal is to reverse these adaptations and promote overall wellness, extending the reach of osteopathic treatments beyond typical musculoskeletal issues.
The immediate impact osteopathic medicine has on patient well-being, compared to traditional approaches, helps give residents an instant sense of gratification. The structured nature of the work, coupled with tangible patient improvements, contributes to a fulfilling professional experience.
Teaching residents is a rewarding aspect, and the recent recognition has revitalized skills among the team.
“I look forward to what all it will bring to our program,” said Creech-Organ. “It's certainly something that sets us apart from the other programs. It's a good opportunity for our residents to become fully trained, fully capable, and highly deployable assets.”