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A History of Country Doctor Clinics - continued

Dale and Betty married early and started a family in their teens. Along the way, Dale earned a Ph.D. in biology and taught at the college level. Betty raised their four children and, later, worked as a legal secretary.

Recalling his college aptitude test, Dale began reading on osteopathic medicine, which was founded more than a century ago as an outgrowth of – and kinder, gentler alternative to – traditional medicine of the time. Andrew Taylor Still, a civil war physician, first articulated the principles of osteopathy in 1874. Then, traditional medicine included such techniques as “bleeding,” crude surgery and the use of drugs with dangerous side effects. Dr. Still believed that structural problems in the spinal column could affect the nerves and blood vessels that radiate out to the various organs and cause diseases. He devised “osteopathic manipulations,” a system for realigning bones and muscles, restoring proper balance to the body so it could heal itself.

For decades, osteopathy diverged from traditional medicine – relying more on manipulation, nutrition and lifestyle, and less on surgery and drugs. Meanwhile, the practice of traditional medicine was improving as researchers found the real causes of diseases and doctors were better able to treat them. In the 1940’s, osteopathic medicine began to merge with the medical mainstream. By 1972, osteopathic physicians were licensed to practice in all 50 states, often enjoying full hospital privileges – though generally osteopaths like Dr. Alsager do everything possible to avoid hospitalizing patients.

Osteopathic medicine maintains a holistic focus, addressing diet and other lifestyle factors. The approach appeals to doctors and patients alike. Over the past decade, the number of osteopathic physicians has increased 50 percent, and is expected to reach 45,000 practicing in the United States by the year 2000. The Surgeon General of the U.S. Army is an osteopathic physician, and many physicians who specialize in sports medicine also are osteopaths. Most osteopaths are family practice doctors, but they can be found in all specialties.

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