ARE DOs and MDs SUPERIOR TO DCs?
I recently had the opportunity to take a fellow doctor out to lunch to get to know him and learn how we could effectively refer patients to one another. This doctor happened to be a DO which is a doctor of osteopathy with a practice close to mine in Parker Colorado. To make a long story very short for those of you who don’t know what a DO is they are doctors that are now difficult to differentiate from MDs. Many patients see DOs for a variety of reasons and often have no idea they are not seeing an MD. Osteopaths used to be just like chiropractors in that they used adjustments (spinal manipulation) and nutrition to treat patients and were into the idea that the body if given the opportunity, will heal itself. In the early 1960s, the osteopaths accepted pharmaceutical rights and were adopted into the hospital residency programs which allowed them to work side by side with MDs in hospitals. Anyway, during lunch, this osteopath continued to remind me that not only could he function as a primary care physician but he could also utilize spinal manipulation and did so every once in a while (even though I have heard that only 5% now use manipulation). It was implied that he was a “real” doctor and superior to any chiropractor. He was nice and cordial but there was an indelible message that he was a true physician and that osteopaths had gotten their act together where chiropractic could not. I explained that it wasn’t that chiropractic couldn’t get their act together but that a debate has raged about this very topic for a number of years among chiropractors. The conservative chiropractors want nothing to do with big pharma and the sickness care that is promoted within the hospital system and the more liberal sided chiropractors want to utilize pharmaceuticals as just another tool in their tool bag. The egocentric side of me wanted to say you are no better than me, in fact, your profession sold out your core philosophy to make a buck and gain notoriety. But, the fact of the matter is DOs recognize the healing power of spinal manipulation and when it comes to primary care not only do I and my family see one I also recommend them for the primary and specialized care of my patients.
Although this doctor was friendly and courteous I left feeling like a second rate physician, which is not unusual for chiropractors as often people equate us to massage therapists. Not that there is anything wrong with massage therapists, I love them, but after 8 years of school 6 board exams and $200,000 in debt from student loans it would be nice to be recognized as a physician. For those who don’t know, chiropractors take the same pre-med classes as MDs and then have another 4 years of doctorate training similar to medical school. While in chiropractic school I averaged 40 credits per quarter and then had to find time to write papers and study for exams outside of class. It is anything but simple and I promise we deserve the right to be called doctors which is a designation that is not given easily. Getting back to the point, I got home feeling just irritated and belittled and so I did what I always do and called my father who is also a chiropractor. I was a bit mad at him for not recommending DO school when I was making the decision of which school to attend as he should have known better. I thought to myself he knew how little respect we get and how insurance reimbursement can’t compare to MDs. Therefore, why would he not direct me go the more traditional route. My dad quickly snapped me out of it by saying “why would you want to be part of the system that addicts people to legal drugs and imprisons them in bad health, I thank god every day that I don’t write prescriptions.” He went on to say “you have chiropractic, acupuncture, and nutrition you can treat everyone and never harm a soul.”
The more I reflected on this the more I realized how right he was. The Journal of American Medical Association announced in 1994 that over 350,000 people per year die from medicine making it the 3rd leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. The Journal of American Medical Association also stated in 1990 that doctors were given on average $13,000 per year in gifts and enticements from the different drug companies trying to convince them to sell their drugs. That is a lot of money to be spending getting into doctors heads. The U.S. makes up 5% of the world’s population and uses 75% of the world’s pharmaceuticals and yet we are one of the sickest nations in the world. According to the world health organization we are in the bottom 5 of all nations surveyed. This is despite the fact that we have the least amount of smoking in the world and one of the highest qualities of life. I am not knocking traditional doctors there is a time and place for pharmaceuticals. I also know that chiropractic has its fair share of scam artists and con men but there is a reason health care is breaking this nation and at the forefront of the political debates. Sit down and watch FOX news or CNN for an hour and just watch the ads. They go something like this, “Ask your doctor for “Cialis” or some such thing, and then the very next ad is an attorney saying, “If you took Anusfix and your anus fell out call this 800 number. You may be entitled to a settlement from XYZ pharmaceuticals company. $5 billion has been set aside to satisfy these claims. We can’t replace your anus but we sure can get you some money for it. So, CALL TODAY!” It really is pretty bizarre.
I now have 2, soon to be 3 little boys of my own and I can tell you both professions are good and honorable but I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t be disappointed if they went the more traditional route simply for compensation or for the need to be accepted by all. That may be very bad news for me as not only am I looking more and more like my father but I find myself acting like and saying what he would. I love my profession and love the patients that trust me with their health. People come to me suffering every day that are tired of being told to take some pain killers and muscle relaxers and wait it out. Most often they come in intense pain and on several medications and leave feeling pain-free and rejuvenated. I am able to do this without having them pick up a script with harmful side effects and can do it just by using my hands and god given ability. Each day I can teach patients how to prevent disease and illness through proper diet, supplementation, and regular alignments. I am in the business of wellness, not sickness and for that, I am truly grateful. I think Robert Frost said it best in his poem The Road Not Taken:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves, no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,