ARORA: National Osteopathic Medicine Week a good chance to learn about GA-PCOM

Did you know there is a medical school right here in Suwannee? Did you know it has been here for almost 10 years?

You have probably driven past it without thinking twice, deeming the flame on the side of the warehouse-looking building the symbol of a propane company. However, that flame actually represents a flame of knowledge, and inside that warehouse-looking building are hundreds of students learning a not so new, but very interesting, approach to medicine — i.e. osteopathic medicine.

This week, April 13-19, is National Osteopathic Medicine (NOM) Week. It is a week in which osteopathic physicians and medical students focus on one common goal — increasing awareness of osteopathic medicine and DOs in communities across the country. It is an important week to the medical profession, as it allows the community to understand the osteopathic approach. We hope by the end of this article you have a little better idea of who and what osteopathic medicine is.

“So, ‘what is osteopathic medicine and why should I care?’ you may ask. Everyone has visited a physician at some point in their life (most seeing multiple physicians), but many do not realize that some, or even all, of these physicians might be osteopathic physicians. Indeed, most do not even know that there are two different types of physicians — allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO), both of which are completely qualified physicians licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery.

Both types of physicians must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree, followed by four years of basic medical education and three to eight years of further training via internships, residencies and fellowships. Both are able to practice in any medical specialty after passing comparable three part state licensure examinations (United States Medical Licensing Examination for MDs or Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination for DOs). However, it is important to note that osteopathic physicians approach the human body in their own unique way.

Osteopathic physicians, while undergoing the same basic training as allopathic physicians, receive up to 200 hours of additional training focusing on the osteopathic approach to the body. The “Osteopathic Approach” emphasizes the importance of primary care, prevention of disease and visualization of the whole body as one uniform unit (as opposed to a conglomeration of several individual body systems). In order to achieve this, DOs receive extra instruction in specialized techniques known as osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), which focus on the musculoskeletal system — your body’s interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones. Specifically, these techniques utilize stretching, gentle pressure and resistance to move joints and muscles.

With OMT, osteopathic physicians use their hands to encourage the body’s natural tendency toward good health and to provide the physician with a better understanding of how an illness or injury in one part of the body can affect other parts. OMT is appropriate for all ages and backgrounds, and, while it is most commonly used to ease pain and promote healing of the muscles, it has been shown to help patients with a number of other ailments including migraines, sinus disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome, menstrual cramps and many more. Additionally, osteopathic medicine puts a great emphasis on adopting lifestyle habits that not only fight illnesses but also prevent the onset of disease. Osteopathic medical schools also encourage their students to enter into primary care, as there is currently the most medical demand in these fields.

To help alleviate the growing demand for primary care physicians, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, one of the first colleges of osteopathic medicine in the nation (graduating its first class in 1899), decided to open a branch campus in Georgia. The Georgia campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (GA-PCOM) is located in Suwanee, and the student population has continued to grow since its opening in 2005.

GA-PCOM’s mission is to improve the health care environment of the Southeast, particularly Georgia, by placing an emphasis on primary care. Presently, 60 percent of osteopathic physicians specialize in the primary care fields, which include family medicine, pediatrics and general internal medicine, and GA-PCOM students tend to follow this statistic.

Throughout this week, I encourage all of you to explore the osteopathic approach further, and I challenge you to learn more about a DO in your community. One way in which to do that is to visit Suwanee City Hall on Thursday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. GA-PCOM students will be there to distribute information and answer questions about osteopathic medicine and the school. Suwanee City Hall is located at 330 Town Center Avenue, Suwanee, GA 30024.

In addition, you may visit the American Osteopathic Association online at www.osteopathic.org to learn more. For more information about GA-PCOM, visit www.pcom.edu or call 770- 225- 7509 to arrange a campus visit. The school is located at 625 Old Peachtree Road N.W., Suwanee, GA 30024, just one and a half miles from Interstate 85.

Happy NOM week! We hope to see you this week!

Natasha Arora is a student at GA-PCOM.