Mark vs Cancer

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Developing Philosophy

As the new doctor in Worland, I was asked to write an article for the local newspaper explaining what a "D.O." means. It was interesting for me to express in writing my developing philosophy of medical practice--to "fling my banner to the wind," as A.T. Still once did.

I have benefitted greatly from both osteopathic and allopathic training, and I find my resultant personal philosophy to be an interesting mixture of both, coupled with a heaping dose of my own feelings about medical ethics and end-of-life care. Throw into that cauldron some natural medicine philosophy from Dr. Andrew Weil, and you have the healthy soup (chicken noodle?) that I want to offer my patients.

While I deeply appreciate all of the wonderful mentors and teachers I have had that have contributed to this philosophy, I must admit an ecstatic feeling of liberation that I can now more fully express, without the sometimes restraining oversight of preceptors, my own philosophy about the practice of medicine. Not that I do anything too radical. In fact, I do my best to adhere to national consensus, evidence-based guidelines. But I believe there are far too many needless prescriptions handed out and surgeries being done; I believe that people need to take responsibility for their health by practicing healthy habits and preventative care; and I believe everyone needs to understand their own mortality and the limits of modern medicine, and to accept the end gracefully when it comes.

Here is a reprint of my article:

Hello, Worland! Thank you to everyone here for helping my family feel so welcome.

I am Dr. Mark Foster, DO, and I have just joined WMC Clinic’s family practice with Drs. Jamey Jessen, MD, and Kjell Benson, MD. Some of you may wonder why I have the title “D.O.” after my name rather than “M.D.” I hope to explain the important similarities and differences in the space below.

D.O. stands for Doctor of Osteopathy. Osteopathy is a distinct branch of American medicine, founded in 1874 by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. Dr. Still was a classically trained frontier doctor who became increasingly frustrated with the inadequacies of 19th Century mainstream medicine (known as allopathic medicine), some of whose toxic remedies included arsenic, bloodletting, and mercury bathing. When three of his own children were taken by spinal meningitis while he looked helplessly on, Dr. Still first became despondent, then resolute towards finding a better way to practice medicine.

A devoted anatomist, he was inspired by the miraculous structure of the human body and its capacity for self-healing. He noted how the healing systems of the body worked better when the musculoskeletal system was in proper working order. Through experimentation, he devised a system of “manipulations” to restore the proper functioning of first the musculoskeletal system, and secondarily of the entire human body. He felt that a physician’s responsibility was not just to treat disease, but more importantly to find health. He named his new philosophy of healthcare “Osteopathy.”

Initially, Dr. Still’s intent was to separate from mainstream allopathic medicine. However, through the early twentieth century, Dr. Still’s successors at the helm of Osteopathic Medicine accepted and then practiced the breakthroughs of modern medical science: antibiotics, insulin, surgery, pharmacology, etc.

Today, osteopathic physicians practice with the full scope of modern medical advancements. There are D.O.s that practice in all major medical specialties in all fifty states: cardiologists, neurosurgeons, pediatric endocrinologists, and family medicine specialists. D.O.s prescribe medicines, order CT scans, perform surgeries, deliver babies, give immunizations, and practice medicine in much the same way that their M.D. counterparts do, with a few important distinctions: D.O.s are trained in performing musculoskeletal manipulations; and D.O.s adhere to a unique philosophy of healthcare.

As a D.O., I practice in accordance with the American Osteopathic Association’s refined Tenets of Osteopathic Medicine (2002):
1 A person is a product of dynamic interaction between body, mind, and spirit.
2 An inherent property of this dynamic interaction is the capacity of the individual for the maintenance of health and recovery from disease.
3 Many forces, both intrinsic and extrinsic to the person, can challenge this inherent capacity and contribute to the onset of illness.
4 The musculoskeletal system significantly influences the individual’s ability to restore this inherent capacity and therefore to resist disease processes.

In short, I believe that if you take care of your body, your body will take care of you, and so I emphasize healthy habits and preventive medicine. When things go wrong in spite of this, I believe that medications are sometimes the right answer, but that often they are not. The purpose of my training is to know the difference. Finally, I am able to perform a range of manipulations if your musculoskeletal system needs some special attention.

Above all, I am devoted to you as a patient, and to discovering with you how to optimize your health and happiness. I am honored to work with Drs. Jessen and Benson, and to help complement their continued delivery of compassionate, patient-oriented healthcare to Washakie County. Feel free to come and visit!


Danalin said...


Sorry I have not responded to your previous few posts...I have read and, of course, enjoyed them! Wyoming looks beautiful! I asked Ty the other day how long the drive would be to visit you guys and he said only about 12 easy! We should be planning a visit your way before too long. It may be 2007, but that's not so far away.

It sounds like you and the town are getting along. How could anyone NOT be excited to have a family like yours move in?! And how could anyone NOT want you to be their doc?! If I were a Worlandite, after reading your article, I would definitely make an appointment.

Keep the posts coming and enjoy manipulating the wonderful town of Worland! :)

Tankfos said...

I believe that Doc Fos will be the greatest doctor that has ever lived in Worland. You are getting articles published, you are getting air time on the radio, and your very own parade. I don't think I told you, but thank you for the good time this last week. I love the kiddos and Liz, and I was really impressed by Worland in general. I was not impressed by the rest of Wyoming. Wasteland.