Letters, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Guest essay: Opposition to West Virginia Senate Bill 714

By Matthew A. Davis

This year, a bill (SB 714) introduced in the West Virginia Senate calls for eliminating the West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine, which oversees the medical licensing for osteopathic physicians (DOs) and has existed since 1923. Those licenses would be consequently transferred to the allopathic licensing board. These two distinct branches of medicine should maintain their own licensing board, as each brings unique perspectives and strengths to the practice of medicine.

Osteopathic medicine has been a vital part of the health care landscape for 150 years, providing patients with a holistic and patient-centered approach to medicine. It is based on the philosophy that the body is a unit of mind, body and spirit, and that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. DOs are trained to consider the whole person when diagnosing and treating illness, and they are taught to focus on preventive care.

One of the key differences between osteopathic and allopathic medicine is the emphasis on osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) in the osteopathic profession. OMT is a hands-on technique used to alleviate pain, promote healing and improve the overall functioning of the body. This unique treatment modality is a crucial aspect of osteopathic medicine and is not taught in allopathic medical schools. It is important to ensure that patients continue to have access to this valuable treatment option.

Furthermore, the separate recognition of osteopathic medicine is crucial to preserving the distinct identity and unique contributions of the osteopathic profession. By maintaining separate licensing boards, the state can ensure that the values and principles of osteopathic medicine continue to be upheld and promoted. Unification with the allopathic licensing boards could dilute the identity of osteopathic medicine and diminish the unique perspective that DOs bring to the field.

Moreover, the preservation of separate osteopathic licensing boards is important for maintaining diversity and innovation in the medical profession. DOs often provide services in underserved communities and are more likely to practice primary care, which is vital for addressing health care disparities. The distinct perspective of osteopathic medicine is crucial for addressing the diverse and complex health care needs of patients and for fostering innovative approaches to care.

The recognition of osteopathic medicine as a separate and distinct profession is crucial for fostering collaboration and partnership between the osteopathic and allopathic medical communities. By maintaining separate licensing boards, the state can encourage the sharing of knowledge, expertise and best practices between the two branches of medicine, while also respecting the unique contributions and ensuring equality of each profession.

As both boards of medicine are self-sustaining through licensing fees and fines, combining these boards would provide no additional cost savings to West Virginia. In addition, the board staff positions are based on the size of the board’s number of license holders, so combining the boards would not reduce the number of state employees.

Ultimately, the osteopathic and allopathic licensing boards of medicine should remain separate to ensure patients continue to have access to the diverse perspectives and unique treatments offered by DOs. Unification with the allopathic licensing boards could threaten the distinct identity and valuable contributions of osteopathic medicine, while also diminishing diversity and innovation in the medical profession.

Therefore, I strongly urge legislators and other stakeholders to recognize the importance of maintaining separate licensing boards for osteopathic and allopathic medicine. The American Osteopathic Association, which represents more than 186,000 DOs, along with the West Virginia Osteopathic Medical Association (representing over 1,700 licensed DOs and 800 osteopathic medical students), along with the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians and its West Virginia Chapter all firmly oppose the elimination of the West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine. Please contact your state senators and delegates and stand in support of your state’s osteopathic doctors, on this important community health matter. #DOProud

Matthew A. Davis, DO, is president of the West Virginia chapter of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, president-elect of the WV Academy of Family Physicians, secretary of the WV Osteopathic Medical Association and associate clinical professor at the WV School of Osteopathic Medicine.