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Education Firmly Established

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.

American School of Osteopathy. Photo property of the Still National Osteopathic Museum, Kirksville, MO.
Photo property of the Still National Osteopathic Museum, Kirksville, MO.

The ASO had a faculty of two—Dr. 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 organization’s constitution reflected a commitment to enforcing educational standards and provided for a Committee on Education.

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Formed

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. Booth’s 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 requirement—that 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 bachelor’s 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.

Today Colleges 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.

Graduates getting read for comencement ceremony.

Four colleges have or will be celebrating their Centennial at the turn of this century--Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicne, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.


For Further Reading

Historic Reference of Osteopathic Colleges: Listing includes charter dates, mergers, closings, etc.

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Images on this Web site are property of the American Osteopathic Association Archives unless otherwise noted.
Special thanks to the AOA Committee on Osteopathic History and the Still National Osteopathic Museum.

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