The History of Osteopathic Medicine

125 Years & Counting: 1892-2017

In 1892, Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, started the first osteopathic medical school.


The first class of the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri, pictured here circa 1893 with Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO.,
Photo Courtesy of The DO.

View an Online Interactive Video "Hand Over Hand"
Created by the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine Heritage Center to explore the nature, history and future of Osteopathic Medicine.

What's the Story?

Osteopathic medicine is a unique form of American medical care that was developed in 1874 by frontier doctor Andrew Taylor Still. Dr. Still was dissatisfied with the effectiveness of 19th century medicine. He believed that many of the medications of his day were useless or even harmful. Dr. Still was one of the first in his time to study the attributes of good health so that he could better understand the process of disease.


In response Dr. Still founded a philosophy of medicine based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. The philosophy focuses on the unity of all body parts. He identified the musculoskeletal system as a key element of health. He recognized the body’s ability to heal itself and stressed preventive medicine, eating properly and keeping fit.


Dr. Still pioneered the concept of “wellness” 100 years ago. In today’s terms, personal health risks – such as smoking, high blood pressure, excessive cholesterol levels, stress and other lifestyle factors – are evaluated for each individual. In coordination with appropriate medical treatment, the osteopathic physicians act as a teacher to help patients take more responsibility for their own well-being and change unhealthy patterns.


Sports medicine is also a natural outgrowth of osteopathic practice, because of its focus on the musculoskeletal system, osteopathic manipulative treatment, diet, exercise and fitness. Many professional sports team physicians, Olympic physicians and personal sports medicine physicians are D.O.’s.


What's It Like Today?

Just as Dr. Still pioneered osteopathic medicine on the Missouri frontier in 1874, today osteopathic physicians serve as modern day medical pioneers. They continue the tradition of bringing health care to areas of greatest need:

  • Over half of all osteopathic physicians practice in primary care areas, such as pediatrics, general practice obstetrics/gynecology and internal medicine.
  • Many D.O.’s fill a critical need for family doctors by practicing in small towns and rural areas.

Today osteopathic physicians continue to be on the cutting edge of modern medicine. D.O.’s are able to combine today’s awesome medical technology with the tools of their ears to listen carefully to their patients; their eyes to see their patients as whole persons; and their hands, to diagnose and treat injury and illness. 


From 2010 to 2016, the number of actively licensed DOs in the U.S. increased by nearly 40%, from over 58,000 to over 81,000, reports the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) as of 2017 in their most recent physician census. By the American Osteopathic Association's (AOA) count, there are more than 102,000 DOs total in the U.S., with a combined total of more than 129,000 osteopathic medical students and physicians. This means that since 1986, there has been a 276% increase in the number of DOs in the United States.


* Source: AOA Website




For more information about an osteopathic medical education in Maine, visit the University of New England’s College of Osteopathic Medicine web site at: