The Waning of Osteopathic Identity

Despite these changes, many allopathic doctors still disdained osteopaths. Although osteopathic education had improved, it had not kept up with the changes in allopathic education, leading many states to grant only restricted privileges to osteopaths. To combat this problem, the AOA adopted a series of reforms between 1935 and 1960, including requiring three years of college for admission to osteo- pathic colleges; improving the curriculum, facilities, and faculty at those colleges; and strengthening internship programs at osteopathic hospitals. Because of these changes, osteopaths had received unrestricted privileges to practice in 38 states by 1960.

The Waning of Osteopathic Identity Despite these reforms, osteopaths still lacked the professional autonomy and status of allopathic doctors, who outnum- bered them by at least 20 to 1 throughout the 1900s. This situation led osteopaths in California, the state where osteopathy was most entrenched, to strike a bargain in 1962 with their allopathic counterparts. Ninety percent of California oste- opaths agreed to dissolve their ties with the AOA, stop using their osteopathic degrees, and accept new medical degrees. The California osteopathic hospitals and colleges agreed to become allopathic institutions, and the state osteopathic orga- nization agreed that the state would stop issuing osteopathic licenses.

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Although at the time many osteopaths worried that this move would weaken osteopathy, the reverse proved true. Many allopathic and osteo- pathic doctors alike opposed the merger, making any further mergers unlikely. In addition, the continuing professional problems of the former California osteopaths convinced osteopaths elsewhere that merging wouldn’t end their problems.