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Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine

Any variation from the health has a cause, and the cause has a location.  It is the business of the osteopath to locate and remove it (the cause), doing away with disease and getting health instead. -A.T. Still, MD, DO

Kelsey Johnson is an Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) Fellow at Kansas City University, Joplin campus. Kelsey is between her third and fourth year of medical school and is using her year-long fellowship to learn as much as she can about OMM to use in her future practice. Learn more about OMM and the medical school experience in her interview with DEPCO below:

-What made you decide to enroll in medical school to become a doctor?

I’ve always been interested in science and I love being around people. It’s the typical “helping people” answer! I’m from a really small town, so I’d like to go back and incorporate my knowledge into my community.

-Where are you from?

I’m from a small town in southern Minnesota called St. Clair; most people don’t know where it is.

-Do you have an idea of the kind of doctor you’d like to be?

I’m interested in family medicine, kind of the full spectrum, which is a recent development for me. I was really interested in emergency medicine for the longest time, but with family medicine you can do emergency in the smaller ERs. I also really like pediatrics and delivering babies. With family medicine, you can do everything.

-What are the differences between a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)?

Historically, it’s been about the philosophy of how you treat patients. A DO takes more of a holistic, full-body approach. In the past 15 years it has changed; there isn’t a whole lot of difference between an allopathic physician (an MD) verses a DO. DOs work in every specialty; they do surgery, they do all the same things MDs do. Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine is one current difference. OMM is another tool DOs have in their tool bag.

-What is Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM)?

We learn how to use treatments with our hands and manipulate the body using muscles and different treatment techniques. We incorporate that in with traditional pharmaceutical treatment. You wouldn’t go in to a DO with an ear infection and not come out with antibiotics, but we might add in an OMM treatment that could help clear that infection faster. If a patient has pain, a DO could prescribe pain medication, but they may try an OMM technique that would decrease the pain as well. We just have that extra step we can use.

-How does it relate and differ to other techniques such as massage, chiropractic, or physical therapy?

All of those are incorporated in some way. The different techniques that we use, some of them are very similar to massage in that we use techniques to treat soft and deep tissues. When you think of chiropractors, you think of popping your neck and things like that; DOs can do the same thing. Chiropractors focus more on aligning vertebra to help reset the system. While we can do a lot of that, we incorporate more than just that technique.

We have a lot of the same language as physical therapy. That’s why DOs and physical therapists get along so well in general. We both focus on muscles and using your own body to get back to health. All of these techniques are incorporated into medicine; the difference is we have that medical degree that allows us to add in medicine, treatments, and plans.

-How long have you been studying OMM?

I am between my third and fourth year of medical school, so about three and a half years.

-When did you first become interested in becoming an OMM fellow?

I actually thought about it my first year of medical school. I really grasped onto OMM; I enjoy it and I want to use it in my practice. My fellowship is just a way to get more education. I want to refine my skills a little more before I go on and practice.

-How do you anticipate using OMM in your career as a doctor?

I’m really interested in using OMM treatments in breastfeeding. There’s a lot of research coming out on how OMM can help increase milk production and help with latch. Breastfeeding is hard, but I feel like in some cases people struggle unnecessarily. I would love to treat both mom and baby at the same time and be able to use OMM to help them continue breastfeeding. That’s primarily my interest, but I also love that I have OMM as a resource to use in different situations.

-What is the coolest experience you have had working with OMM?

That’s a tough question; there’s been a lot! There’s this video that we show students; a child got cochlear implants and heard his mom’s voice for the first time, and he dropped his pacifier out of his mouth. We tell students “you’re going to have one of these pacifier-dropping experiences with OMM where things just click for you.” For me, that was after I had my first baby. I had a lot of hip and pelvic pain from childbirth. We have a treatment called counter-strain where you use muscles in your body and shut off the pain receptors. I had a very tender point, my friend treated it, and it was completely gone. Ever since then, I’ve been like “This is fantastic and I’m going to use it on everybody!”

-What advice would you give to any interested in pursuing osteopathic medicine?

Medical school in general is hard, it’s long, but it’s worth it. Everyone gets to that point in school where they question “Am I really doing the right thing here?” But then you get to experience treating patients, and you get to deliver a baby, and you get to have all these amazing experiences. It is 100% worth it. That’s my first piece of advice; the other is just work hard and pursue your passions, especially in OMM. You really have to dive into it if you want to be good at it. It isn’t hard to do but you have to take that extra step and push yourself to get better at it.

Kelsey works at the Joplin, Missouri campus of Kansas City University. She lives in Webb City with her husband, her son, and her two dogs. She is due to have a little girl any day now! When asked what hobbies she enjoyed, she laughed and said “I don’t have time for hobbies. I chase my two-year-old around. Whatever he likes, I like that day!” When she finds the time, she loves to be outside and play sports such as golf and volleyball.

Discover Sports Medicine with DEPCO!

Our Sports Medicine program introduces students to a rapidly expanding field in the health care industry that is creating a plethora of exciting job opportunities for properly trained personnel. Sports medicine is a circle of care that starts on the field, moves to treatment, then to rehabilitation, and then back to the field.

Students use hands-on activities that introduce them to proper stretching techniques, athletic taping, on-the-spot treatment of athletic injuries, rehabilitation, nutrition, and much more.

To find out more about our Sports Medicine curriculum, click here!

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