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Osteopathic Medicine in Uniform

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he Association of Military Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons (AMOPS) was established in 1977 to serve and represent osteopathic physicians in the uniformed services. AMOPs represents osteopathic physicians in the Armed Forces and the interests of former Medical Corps DOs who have retired or separated from the military, private practice physicians serving in the Guard or Reserve, osteopathic medical students in the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), and federally-employed physicians. AMOPS also promotes the advancement of osteopathic principles in military practice and federal institutions.

ENS C. Woodworth Parker, OMSIV

11-2015_ENS-ParkerENS C. Woodworth Parker, fourth-year student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) and President of the Student Association of Military Osteopathic Physicians & Surgeons (SAMOPS), represents the voice of his fellow DO students who have committed to serving the U.S. military in a uniquely honorable way. This affords ENS Parker a unique DO student perspective on military medicine—one that highlights the comradery and passion to serve and “care for America’s Best and Bravest” through osteopathic principles and practice.

"Service has been a part of my own DNA"
The mentors, resources, and opportunities—specifically the SAMOPS chapter—at PCOM sparked Parker’s interest in pursuing a military medicine-focused education and career pathway. “For me, choosing military medicine was easy. My grandfather was a CO in the Pacific during World War II and my father served in the Coast Guard during Vietnam,” says Parker. “Service has been a part of my own DNA, and military medicine provides the perfect union between service and caring for others.” He notes that SAMOPS is “supporting military medical students across the country in a way that no other organization—MD or DO—does, focusing specifically on the student experience.”

Like many other military medical students, ENS is anxiously awaiting December 16—the date when he will learn where he has matched for GME in the military system. He has applied to four navy family medicine residencies and looks forward to serving as a ‘Navy Family Medicine DO’, “taking care of our active duty sailors, marines, soldiers, airmen, and coast guardsmen, as well as their families and our proud veterans,” Parker says.1

When asked about his thoughts on the value of osteopathic medicine in the military and the distinctly valuable role of osteopathic practice in the U.S. Armed Forces, Parker explained, “Much of the military and dependents can benefit tremendously from OMT. In the vast majority of my military rotations, OMT has been a valuable tool that I have been able to deploy in caring for sailors and marines—OMT is a powerful tool that takes little equipment and time and can easily be utilized at an MTF, for Forward Operating Base, or aboard a ship … and, I have seen first-hand that patients will love you for it.”

A United Front
With regard to the ongoing changes in osteopathic medical education (OME) and the ever-changing needs in U.S. health care, Parker and his student peers look to the future to see how single GME will evolve, confident in the success of military GME. “For decades, DOs and MDs have trained side-by-side, serving as senior medical officers, as commanding officers, as fleet surgeons, and as the surgeon general. We are all colleagues with a shared mission to serve, and we are strengthened and empowered by each other,” Parker explains. This too, emphasizes the importance of military medicine to be integrated into medical education and training for a united approach to meeting the changing needs of our military service members, veterans, and their families.

“I would encourage students and the entire osteopathic profession to continue the fantastic work we all do each day, supporting our individual and collective missions—be it at school, in civilian practice, or during active duty—and I would encourage our DO schools to make a conscious effort to actively support its military medical students both in the classroom and in rotations.”

LTC Benjamin Hill, DO, MC

11-2015_Benjamin-Hill_AMOPSAMOPS President Benjamin Hill, DO, LTC, MC, is not just proud to be a physician, but an osteopathic physician, and even more so he is proud to be a military osteopathic physician.

Dr. Hill has served in the military since March 1973. First as a medic in the Air Force during the Vietnam era, then as an Army Chemical Officer during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and finally as an Army Physician, Physician Scientist, Physician Historian, and Command Surgeon during combat operations. He retired from military service in October 2015.

Dr. Hill’s military service allowed him to experience and gain insight about osteopathic medicine first hand. “As a USAF medic, I served with DO providers. I understood them to be unique. MDs did traditional medicine only and Chiropractors did manual medicine only. DOs were the only degree that did both traditional and manual medicine,” Dr. Hill recounts.

“The DO military physician had the training to provide the most complete medical support both in garrison where access to technology is abundant and when deployed to combat areas where the tools of the trade are what is in the backpack and in your hands. Personally, I provided a greater spectrum of care in Romania and Afghanistan under conditions of limited technology.”

Dr. Hill further described his military medicine perspective in responding to the following interview questions.

What value do you think osteopathic principles and practice bring to military medicine?
The military osteopathic physician understands that the body has a natural tendency to heal itself. Under conditions of disruption to the body, the military osteopathic physician acts a facilitator of such healing. Unit soldiers depend on this total spectrum of care which begins with a skilled healing hand and therapeutic touch.

The founder of osteopathic medicine, Dr. A.T Still, was a cavalry soldier. He witnessed medicine in the battlefield. He understood how manipulative medicine could make a real world impact on the military population.

How do you think osteopathic medicine distinctively meets the unique needs of military service members, veterans, and their families?
It provides the greatest spectrum of care for the number one medical problem among the demographics of a military population—musculoskeletal pathology.

As a clinic commander, I had the latitude to set my own clinical schedule and patient templates. I was able to set certain extended times specifically for manual medicine which allowed me to check traditional pathologies while actively treating musculoskeletal pathologies. These extended patient visits also served well in mentoring students and physicians in training.

Describe the importance of osteopathic medical education (OME) to adequately prepare and train future physicians to provide quality health care to this community.

It is necessary that medical education provides the greatest latitude in the training of military medical students as they will face a world of medicine absolutely unique from that of their nonmilitary peers. Much of what they will do as military physicians will be done better as they gain a solid foundation of the interworkings of the military both as a culture and a workplace.

Describe the service culture of the military and implications for health care providers.
The military population is unique and the only aspect of medicine which directly provides care of a combat casualty in a combat environment. AMOPS provides face to face interaction of the military medical student with combat veterans and those who fully understand the ebbs and flows of providing medicine under the most austere of conditions.

Describe how DOs help military service members, veterans, and those who support them in transition.
The military DO, through demonstrated service, shows the military population the advantages of osteopathic medicine. As active duty soldiers become veterans, combat veterans, and some even wounded warriors, they will understand the advantage of the DO-trained military provider that has stood with them, providing them the broadest spectrum of medical care available.

For more information and to get involved, visit the AMOPS website.


1 These are the views of ENS Parker and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Defense, the Defense Health Agency, the Department of the Navy, or the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.