v30#4 Collecting to the Core — Osteopathic Medicine

by | Oct 10, 2018 | 0 comments

by Susan E. Swogger  (MOSDOH/CGHS Librarian, A.T. Still University; Health Sciences and Medicine Subject Editor, Resources for College Libraries)  

Column Editor:  Anne Doherty  (Resources for College Libraries Project Editor, CHOICE/ACRL)  

Column Editor’s Note:  The “Collecting to the Core” column highlights monographic works that are essential to the academic library within a particular discipline, inspired by the Resources for College Libraries bibliography (online at http://www.rclweb.net).  In each essay, subject specialists introduce and explain the classic titles and topics that continue to remain relevant to the undergraduate curriculum and library collection.  Disciplinary trends may shift, but some classics never go out of style. — AD

According to U.S. News & World Report, enrollment at the small number of osteopathic medical schools in the United States is increasing approximately five times faster than at allopathic (or conventional) medical schools, with a number of new schools in the planning phase.1  These students will graduate as Doctors of Osteopathy and go on to practice medicine in American healthcare settings.  This growth in osteopathic medicine means that undergraduate students will benefit from having books focused on osteopathic medicine in even a general library collection and that librarians may be newly tasked with offering support for the study, practice, and teaching of osteopathic medicine.  This essay offers a brief introduction to osteopathic medicine and identifies some key books for emerging programs and interested students.

Osteopathic medicine is not a sub-specialty of medicine (like internal or family medicine); it is a “distinct form of medical practice in the United States.”2  It includes the typical procedures and practices of conventional American medicine, including the use of prescription drugs, surgery, technologies, etc., but also “offers the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system of treatment known as osteopathic manipulative medicine,” a form of manual therapy.3  Osteopathic medicine provides the benefits of modern medicine with an increased focus on wellness as achieved through prevention and health promotion.  Osteopathic medicine as a practice tends to attract and produce a greater percentage of providers interested in primary care, practicing in rural or underdeveloped areas, or complementary and alternative medicine.  All of these distinctions may affect the types of books and other resources that osteopathic collections will include.

Students attending osteopathic medical school follow a similar educational progression as students attending a conventional allopathic medical school, with the addition of hundreds of hours of specific coursework focused on the philosophy and special features of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM).  It is compulsory that osteopathic medical students take the specialized Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States (COMLEX-USA); however, they may opt to also take the United States Medical Licensure Examination (USMLE) that is required of conventional medical students.  Allopathic and osteopathic medical students compete for and attend the same clinical rotation courses and residencies. Upon completion, osteopathic medical students are licensed and permitted to practice as Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.s) under standards equivalent to Medical Doctors (M.D.s). More information about this educational process is available from A Brief Guide to Osteopathic Medicine: For Students, By Students, a useful book by D.O.s Patrick Wu and Jonathan Siu.4  This book offers an overview of osteopathic education and medicine from the student perspective, and is freely available from the website of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM).

As osteopathic and allopathic medicine share so many features in the United States, the majority of the needed library resources are identical, but there is a distinct group of resources for the study and practice of osteopathic medicine.  As with many subjects, most new acquisitions for osteopathic medicine prioritize electronic formats. One of the simplest ways to acquire the more commonly-used textbooks is to subscribe to a single collection: Ovid’s LWW Health Library: Osteopathic Medicine Collection.5  This small electronic collection includes seven key titles from the publisher Wolters Kluwer Health’s Lippincott Williams and Wilkins imprint, as well as several hundred clinical videos showing the specialized techniques of OMM.  Of the seven texts included, it is useful to acquire the following four titles in print as well for long-term access or as reserve copies.  Each is valuable not only as a core reference for teaching and clinical practice, but also as a review resource for osteopathic medical students preparing for the COMLEX-USA.

The American Osteopathic Association’s Foundations of Osteopathic Medicine, edited by Anthony G. Chila, is in its third edition and widely used as an introductory and continuing reference text for students studying osteopathic medicine.6  The book includes a broad overview of osteopathic history, philosophy, and practice, and should be part of any collection focused on osteopathic medicine.  Contributors are prominent and well-known osteopathic medical practitioners and faculty, with chapters that focus on manual therapy and aspects of osteopathic practice as applied to other areas of medicine.

Somatic Dysfunction in Osteopathic Family Medicine, currently in its second edition, was sponsored by the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians and edited by Kenneth E. Nelson and Thomas Glonek.7  It focuses on aspects of osteopathic practice in family medicine and includes chapters focused on specific patient populations and clinical conditions.  It is designed for second and third-year students doing a family medicine clinical rotation, as well as to support residents and practitioners.  As a large percentage of osteopathic medical students intend to go into family and primary practice, this is a key reference.

The very comprehensive third edition of The Atlas of Osteopathic Techniques, authored by Alexander S. Nicholas and Evan A. Nicholas, is one of very few monographs showing high-quality diagrams and images for osteopathic manipulative techniques, making it a vital part of a collection supporting manipulative therapy.8  Acquiring it as part of the LWW Health Library gives shared access to its digital images and videos, which is a distinct benefit.

Greenman’s Principles of Manual Medicine is one of the most common textbooks used for manipulative medicine and will be a familiar name to any osteopathic medical faculty.9  The most recent fifth edition was heavily updated and greatly expanded by author Lisa A. DeStefano.  Developed originally by Dr. Philip Greenman to use in continuing medical education courses at Michigan State University, it has become a core reference for students and practitioners in OMM and other forms of manual therapy practiced by physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists.  It includes a large number of photographs and diagrams not otherwise available and is widely adopted and well respected, making it essential to library collections supporting this subject and related allied health fields.

While the above are key, they are not the only important texts.  There are a number of other books about foundational concepts or specialized techniques that may be valuable to a particular collection.  However, it is necessary to pay careful attention to a publication’s country of origin or audience, as the path of practice for osteopathic medicine diverged between the United States and elsewhere.  Outside of the U.S., osteopathic practice focuses entirely on manipulative medicine or therapy. Foreign-trained osteopathic practitioners are osteopaths rather than osteopathic physicians, and do not practice medicine.10  Osteopathic physicians or D.O.s educated in the United States are licensed to practice medicine in many countries outside of it, but the reverse is not true.  As such, books authored about osteopathic practices in Europe or Canada are more useful as additional references rather than core texts, though there are great similarities when it comes to methods of manipulative medicine.

Selectors should also be aware that while many osteopathic medical books may be available digitally, it remains common for titles to be available only in print formats.  For librarians building collections for new osteopathic medical schools, focusing on eBooks only would omit useful print resources. Fortunately, the following recommended texts are available as eBooks.  Osteopathic Techniques: The Learner’s Guide, written by Sharon Gustowski, Maria Gentry, and Ryan Seals, focuses on detailed instruction and illustration of osteopathic manipulative techniques, with extensive review questions for each.11  Though this book has a European publisher, its authors and audience are American.  This book, unlike others cited here, is in its first edition, but it has already been positively reviewed by osteopathic medical faculty and Doody’s Book Reviews.  Edited by Hollis King, Wilfrid Jänig, and Michael Patterson, The Science and Clinical Application of Manual Therapy is one of the few books to focus entirely on evidence supporting osteopathic manipulative therapy in areas beyond musculoskeletal therapy, and is of interest to any collection supporting faculty.12  Manipulation of the Spine, Thorax and Pelvis, written by the Australian osteopathic researchers Peter Gibbons and Philip Tehan, is a well-respected volume focused on manual therapy of the spine.13  Practitioners of many different fields of manual therapy value it, including osteopaths and osteopathic physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, etc.  Like many of Elsevier’s clinical texts, it includes a number of videos available either online or via DVD.  The fourth edition also includes discussions of patient safety, consent issues, practitioner training, and other practice-related concerns.

Collections supporting osteopathic medicine should also include titles on the history of its development, as programs acknowledge that the field’s beginnings and early philosophies are important to understanding the current state of osteopathic medicine.14  Osteopathic medicine as a field began when Dr. Andrew Taylor Still developed his theory of osteopathy in the late nineteenth century and in 1892 founded its first school in Kirksville, Missouri, as the American School of Osteopathy, now A.T. Still University.15  The DOs: Osteopathic Medicine in America by Norman Gevitz is widely considered the most definitive book about the development of the profession and the second edition covers the founder, early development, expansion, struggles for recognition and acceptance, and more.16  Any osteopathic library will also include books written by Dr. Still.  Still produced an autobiography as well as three other volumes about his evolving medical theories.  The two editions of his autobiography contain enough difference that many libraries will want to include both the 1897 and the revised 1908 editions.17-18  There are many references to Still’s works in other books about osteopathic medicine, making it worthwhile to include either the freely available open source copies or reprint editions in a library collection.

The books featured here are important to the study and practice of osteopathic medicine in the United States and belong in a library collection supporting an osteopathic medical school or interested pre-med students.  As graduates of both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools will meet as peers in residency and later medical practice, many will also be of interest to libraries serving related health science disciplines, including allopathic medicine.  


  1.  Salsberg, Edward, and Clese Erikson.  “Doctor Of Osteopathic Medicine: A Growing Share of the Physician Workforce,” Health Affairs Blog.  Accessed January 2, 2018.  https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20171023.624111/full/
  2.  “What is Osteopathic Medicine?” American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM).  Accessed January 2, 2018. http://www.aacom.org/become-a-doctor/about-om#aboutom
  3.  “What is Osteopathic Medicine?”
  4.  Wu, Patrick, and Jonathan Siu.  A Brief Guide to Osteopathic Medicine: For Students, By Students.  2nd ed.  Chevy Chase, MD: American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, 2015.  http://www.aacom.org/docs/default-source/cib/bgom.pdf
  5.  LWW Health Library: Osteopathic Medicine Collection.  Ovid. http://www.ovid.com/site/catalog/databases/13163.jsp
  6.  Chila, Anthony G., ed.  Foundations of Osteopathic Medicine.  3rd ed.  Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010.
  7.  Nelson, Kenneth E., and Thomas Glonek, eds.  Somatic Dysfunction in Osteopathic Family Medicine.  2nd ed.  Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Heath/ACOFP, 2015.
  8.  Nicholas, Alexander S., and Evan A. Nicholas.  Atlas of Osteopathic Techniques.  3rd ed.  Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer, 2016.
  9.  DeStefano, Lisa A.  Greenman’s Principles of Manual Medicine.  5th ed.  Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer, 2016.*
  10.  Gougian, Rachel, and Murray R. Berkowitz.  “Gray Zone: Why a Delayed Acceptance of Osteopathic Medicine Persists in the International Community.” The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 114, no. 10 (2014): 754-760.  doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2014.145.
  11.  Gustowski, Sharon, Maria Budner-Gentry, and Ryan Seals.  Osteopathic Techniques: The Learner’s Guide.  New York: Thieme, 2017.
  12.  King, Hollis H., Wilfrid Jänig, and Michael M. Patterson.  The Science and Clinical Application of Manual Therapy.  London: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone, 2010.
  13.  Gibbons, Peter and Philip Tehan.  Manipulation of the Spine, Thorax and Pelvis.  4th ed.  Edinburgh: Elsevier, 2016.
  14.  Wu, Patrick and Jonathan Siu, A Brief Guide.
  15.  “About ATSU. What is Osteopathic Medicine?” A.T. Still University.  Accessed January 2, 2018. https://www.atsu.edu/about-atsu#Osteopathic-Medicine
  16.  Gevitz, Norman.  The DOs: Osteopathic Medicine in America.  2nd ed.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.
  17.  Still, Andrew T.  Autobiography of Andrew T. Still: With a History of the Discovery and Development of the Science of Osteopathy.  Self-published, Kirksville, MO, 1897.
  18.  Still, Andrew T.  Autobiography of Andrew T. Still: With a History of the Discovery and Development of the Science of Osteopathy.  Rev. ed.  Self-published, Kirksville, MO, 1908.

*Editor’s note: An asterisk (*) denotes a title selected for Resources for College Libraries.


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