By: Vaishali Patel, OMS II
Special thanks to Khalid Gafoor, OMS II
Osteopathic medicine has a vast history, littered with the many battles fought by those who wished to discredit this practice of medicine. In the early 1900’s, a well known fact was that it was not a profession the state of New York wanted to license to practice. In addition to the hurdles within state legislatures, the AMA had branded the profession a cult and throughout the first half of the twentieth century, their code of ethics declared it unethical for a medical physician to voluntarily associate with an osteopath. Awesome.
Well, it took many people advocating for the profession, but a little known factoid is that Mark Twain set aside his acerbic ways for a night and joined the good fight to bring osteopathic licensing to the state of New York. Twain became a staunch supporter after manipulative treatments purportedly alleviated the symptoms of his daughter Jean’s epilepsy as well as Twain’s own chronic bronchitis and in 1909, he spoke before the New York State Assembly at a hearing regarding the practice of osteopathy in the state:
“I don’t know as I cared much about these osteopaths until I heard you were going to drive them out of the state, but since I heard that I haven’t been able to sleep.” Philosophically opposed to the American Medical Association’s stance that its own type of medical practice was the only legitimate one, he spoke in favor of licensing for osteopaths. Physicians from the New York County Medical Society responded with a vigorous attack on Twain, who retorted with “[t]he physicians think they are moved by regard for the best interests of the public. Isn’t there a little touch of self-interest back of it all?” “… The objection is, people are curing people without a license and you are afraid it will bust up business.” So while we remain thankful to Nelson Rockefeller and Dr. W. Kenneth Riland for co-founding NYCOM, we should also give a nod to Mark Twain, an advocate for our basic right to practice medicine.