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News & Press: History of the Osteopathic Profession

Paula Eschtruth, DO, FCA - History of the Osteopathic Profession

Thursday, August 16, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Stiger, DO
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Since its inception and development as a unique healing art by A.T. Still in the late 1800s the concept of osteopathic medicine has been that the role of the osteopathic physician is to ascertain the nature of the illness, identify a structural cause and through the use of manipulation  restore normal bodily function enabling the body to “cure itself” without the use of medication.  This approach was widely accepted by the patients and became the basis of a method of practice that continues to this day. From a humble start in a tiny cabin in Kirksville, Missouri the profession quickly blossomed and soon there were ten schools of Osteopathic Medicine around the country.  Initially, the curriculum in these schools was similar to the one in Kirksville but as time went on other schools began to incorporate “materia medica” classes along with the traditional training in anatomy obstetrics, surgery, etc.  Often DOs were faced with a practice choice: traditional manipulation practice (ten finger) or a combined choice where OMT was another useful tool in the GP’s armamentarium (three finger).  Dr. Eschtruth’s story is one of personal choice: Three finger or ten finger Osteopathy?

Paula was born in Lansing, Michigan the daughter of an electrical appliance man.  Her mom was a homemaker. Together with her brother and sister she was raised in Grand Ledge, Michigan. She attended Grand Ledge High School. Basically a shy and retiring person, she found her joy in life was reading. Fresh out of high school she enrolled in Albion College in Albion, Michigan. A premed student from the start she excelled in science, especially life sciences. In her senior year she began to apply to medical school. She quickly learned that most of the schools she applied to had strict quotas of the number of women accepted. For example, one school accepted 200 students a year but only 4 women were allowed each year! Her advisor suggested she get more education and she applied and was accepted for a master’s program in anatomy.  She also suggested an osteopathic medical school. At the time Paula had no clue as to what a DO was but learned that her father’s physician was a DO.  Paula did some reading and discovered that the osteopathic philosophy was one with which she wholeheartedly agreed. She applied and was accepted at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in Chicago, Illinois in 1960. She was the only woman in her class but she was undeterred.  The emphasis at the school was on science and academics. Fortunately, the school also had a very strong anatomy department a wonderful preparation for a future DO. Paula proved to be an excellent and conscientious student.  In clinic, she was often assigned the most challenging cases in OMT.  It was there she learned how to deal with even the largest of patients. After graduation in 1964 she wanted a change in scenery and applied for and was accepted at Eastmoreland General Hospital.  She and fellow intern Tony Kai, DO had plenty of experience at that hospital.

From there, Dr. Eschtruth went on to private practice in Portland from 1965 to 1985.  From the start her interest and aptitude in osteopathic manipulation caused her to practice in a way that closely resembled the teachings of the founder of the profession, A.T Still.  She was proficient and used all of the modern medications and methods but her real love was “classic osteopathy.” She continued her study of osteopathic medicine, joining the American Academy of Osteopathy and the Cranial Academy holding offices and teaching in both academies. In 1975 while skiing she sustained a fracture of her ankle.  She was informed by her orthopedist that she would be in pain for the rest of her life.  At an Academy meeting she was examined and treated by Robert Fulford, DO. After one treatment by Dr. Fulford the pain was completely gone.  For the next 20 years Dr. Fulford was her mentor and much of the work she does now is based on his teachings.

In 1985 she moved her practice to Oregon City.  Her new location was called “Still Point” and together with fellow DO Paul Miller she devoted herself exclusively to OMT. After five years she moved to Salem where she works four days a week. She gives classes periodically in Fulford’s methods and has also at various times taught at the Cranial Academy, the Sutherland Teaching Foundation, the Academy of Osteopathy, and Percussion Hammer Courses, most recently in Boston, Mass.

She has received numerous awards and offices from the various osteopathic organizations around the country including the AOA “Mentor Hall Of Fame Award” in 2005.  In 1978 she was appointed by the governor to serve on the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners.  
I asked Dr. Escruth what was her OMT method of choice, she replied, “What I find on examination dictates what I will use. To do that you must examine the entire patient!”  Her greatest achievement?  Being a DO!  Her greatest disappointment? That more DOs are practicing without any OMT at all-begging the question-why bother with an Osteopathic education?  Advice to future DOs? Learn physical diagnosis and OMT and then apply these principals to your practice.


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