Meeting Medical Demands In East Tennessee

Knoxville (WVLT) -- In the old days, they were called family doctors.

They were your first contact for health concerns.

Now days, they're known as primary care physicians.

Even though the title has changed, their mission remains much the same.

But with so many physicians specializing, primary care physicians are in demand.

Volunteer TV's Jim Freeman has answers to how America is meeting those demands right here in East Tennessee through osteopathic medicine.

LMU Medical student Greg Nieckula says, "I think for a long time, it was a well kept secret, but I think people are catching on and people enjoy seeing a DO.

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine that is.

But how does a DO compare to an Allopathic physician or MD?

Dr. Gregory Thompson is a practicing DO and also teaches at LMU and says, "We do it all. There's nothing we don't do. We prescribe medications. We do surgery. We have all the traditional healthcare that you would expect from a typical MD physician. DO's are trained in all of that."

Dr. Thompson says D-Os sort of step back and look at people as people not as a diagnosis, "Through Osteopathic Manipilation, through the manual therapy techniques the students are taught here we can reduce or eliminate the need for medication or surgery. So people find that very attractive. So, it's the combination of the two that makes us who we are."

So why is Osteopathic Medicine becoming so popular?

LMU's School of Osteopathic Medicine is named for Pete DeBusk and he says, "The majority of the classes of D-O medical schools, they go into general practice, family practice, and there's a tremendous need for this."

Since 1981, ten DO schools have opened compared to only one MD school.

State and federal dollars are part of what's helping fuel the growth of DO schools.

More and more new DO schools, like LMU's, opened last year and more are on the way.

Dr. Gregory Thompson is a practicing DO and also teaches at LMU and says, "If you're going to be turning out family practitioners who will manage the majority of the people, that's the kind of DO we need and want. So, they're very interested in helping us to open those schools."

The fact that 95-percent of Tennessee's counties are federally underserved makes LMU's new medical school all the more special.

Even though only one allopathic or MD school has opened in the past 20-years, the pace picked up last year.

In 2007, seven allopathic medical schools were in various stages of the accreditation process while five osteopathic schools were approved to begin admitting medical students.

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