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Origins of Osteopathy

The osteopathic profession was founded by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still in the United States in the late 1800s. Osteopathic medicine, or osteopathy, is a complete system of health care emphasizing a whole person approach to medicine. There are currently 33 colleges of osteopathic medicine in the United States with 48 campuses producing physicians with comprehensive medical and surgical training, and with special skills in musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment, who make use of all modern diagnostic and treatment modalities, including unique manual treatment principles known as ‘osteopathic manipulative medicine’. 


It is the American Osteopathic Association's Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA)  that provides the advanced medical and surgical training required for licensure in Canada.  These US colleges are also responsible for the development of the advanced osteopathic manual treatment techniques used by specialists in osteopathic manipulative medicine worldwide.  The American Osteopathic Association and American Academy of Osteopathy continue to be the international leaders in advanced manual therapy techniques. 


Please note that since its inception, osteopathic education has always included comprehensive medical and surgical training. It is this traditional model of osteopathy that continues to be taught at US colleges of osteopathic medicine and is recognized for licensure in Canada, the United States, and over 45 countries worldwide for full osteopathic medical practice.

Since the early 1900s there have been osteopathic physicians practicing in British Columbia, and registered with the College of Physicians and Surgeons.  Through the combined efforts of the British Columbia Osteopathic Association, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, the British Columbia Ministry of Health, and with the assistance of the Canadian and American Osteopathic Associations, eventually new regulations have developed that recognize osteopathic medical education for full licensure with the College and recognition of United States Osteopathic medical licensing examinations for registration.  As of yet however, the process for assessment and accreditation of U.S. Osteopathic postgraduate training programs for licensure in the United States is not recognized for full licensure in British Columbia.  Osteopathic graduates who apply for full medical licensure in British Columbia (General Practice or Specialty Practice) based on U.S. postgraduate training, must have completed residency programs that are ACGME accredited (Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education).  AOA accredited residency training is accepted for osteopathic registration to practice musculoskeletal medicine.

Continued efforts by the BCOA and Canadian Osteopathic Association (COA) in cooperation with provincial and national regulatory bodies has led to full medical licensure of American osteopathic medical graduates with the provincial colleges of Physicians and Surgeons nation wide, as well as recognition by the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.  Additionally, the Medical Council of Canada accepts the DO degree (Doctor of Osteopathy) granted by AOA approved American osteopathic colleges for entrance to the Medical Council of Canada licensing examinations.

With the development of the new Health Professions Act and Medical Practitioners Regulation, as of June 1, 2009, new 'Bylaws' of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC are now in place.  These provide for osteopathic physicians with appropriate postgraduate training to register for licensure to practice full medical and specialty practice.  Additionally, for those osteopathic physicians with a special interest in musculoskeletal and manual medicine, a separate class of licensure for 'osteopathic practice' is provided for in these bylaws.  

Under the new 'Bylaws' of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, United States national licensure examinations including COMLEX, USMLE, FLEX, and NBME are now recognized for full registration with the College.

Osteopathic Medicine in BC

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Advisory Regarding

Non-Physician Practitioners

using Osteopathic Titles

Unfortunately, while there has been a void in appropriately trained and registered osteopathic graduates in BC, other non-physician practitioners have taken advantage of public demand by holding themselves out as Osteopaths or 'Osteopathic Practitioners'.  However, these individuals have not obtained a comprehensive osteopathic medical education and are ineligible for licensure in Canada.  For patients to be certain that they are seeing a registered and licensed osteopathic practitioner, the BCOA recommends confirming that your osteopathic practitioner is registered and licensed to practice with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC.

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