In 1892, Dr.
Andrew Taylor Still opened the American School of Osteopathy (ASO) in a 16-foot by 22-foot
frame building in Kirksville, MO. The school's original charter, granted on May 10, 1892,
gave it the right to confer the doctor of medicine (M.D.) degree, but ASO's governing body
chose to award the diplomate* of osteopathy (D.O.) degree instead.
The ASO had a faculty of twoDr. Still and William Smith, D.O. (Smith was the
first to obtain the D.O. degree)and approximately 21 students, including three of
Dr. Still's sons and one daughter. Instruction focused on the study of anatomy and its
link to function. According to Dr. Still:
Osteopathy is all in Anatomy and its governing laws...In 1894
I reached the conclusion that it was best to close the doors of the operating rooms to all
students until they made a grade of 90 on a scale of 100 in The Whole of Anatomy.
By January 1897, the school had grown to occupy a 30,000 square-foot, four-story
building, where 14 faculty members taught 280 students from 24 states and two Canadian
provinces. The building also housed the latest medical equipment, including one of the
earliest X-ray machines west of the Mississippi River.
It was this same year that students organized to form
the American Association for the Advancement of Osteopathy (AAAO),
or the American Osteopathic Association as it is known today. The
organizations constitution reflected a commitment to enforcing
educational standards and provided for a Committee on Education.
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
On June 18, 1898, ASO leaders and educators formed the Associated Colleges of
Osteopathy (ACO). They set standards for curriculum and length of study, as well as
assured professional standards in flagship schools. The ACO's members included C.M. Turner
Hulett, D.O. of ASO (Kirksville); Jenette "Nettie" Bolles, D.O., Western
Institute of Osteopathy (Denver); L.M. Rheem, D.O., Northern Institute of Osteopathy
(Minneapolis); George F. Burton, D.O., Pacific School of Osteopathy (Los Angeles); W.B.
Davis, D.O., Milwaukee Institute of Osteopathy; and S.S. Still, D.O., Still College of
Osteopathy (Des Moines).
College Inspections Began with One Person
The ACO worked closely with the AOA in college inspections. In early 1903, Eamons R.
Booth, D.O., was appointed the task of inspector, and he made on-site inspections of all
schools belonging to the ACO. Based on Dr. Booths inspection report to the AOA Board
of Trustees, the members of the ACO were approved.
Admissions Standards Set
The AOA set criteria for admissions, if indirectly. In 1920, osteopathic medical
schools, in order to keep their AOA accreditation, had to require a minimum of a
high school diploma (or equivalent) of its matriculants. In 1943, the AOA began enforcing
another requirementthat matriculants meet a minimum number of English, biology,
physics and chemistry courses. Entrance requirements were raised to three years of
undergraduate college for admission to AOA-accredited schools in 1958. By 1973, 97% of
applicants had bachelors degrees.
Federal Recognition of Osteopathic Medical Education
The U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare recognized the AOA as the
accrediting body for osteopathic medical education in 1952. In 1967, the AOA was
recognized by the National Commission on Accrediting (now the Council for Higher Education
Accreditation) as the accrediting agency for all facets of osteopathic medical education.
Federal recognition had a profound effect on osteopathic medicine, spurring a second
generation of schools and a dramatic increase in the number of osteopathic physicians. The
big shift came in the move to state-supported schools, starting with Michigan State
University College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Lansing, which graduated its first
class in 1973.
of Osteopathic Medicine offer instruction to thousands of students at dozens of locations.
*According the the Still National Osteopathic Museum, it
is unclear when "Diplomate of Osteopathy" officially became "Doctor of
Osteopathy." In April 1895, Still explains that to be a Doctor of Osteopathy,
one had to be a Diplomate of Osteopathy; or otherwise, a recipient of an ASO diploma.