The osteopathic profession has long recognized the need to carry out research in order to improve clinical care. Osteopathic physicians have a particular obligation to carry out research in areas, such as osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), that are unique to osteopathic medicine. OMM is similar to manual therapy that is performed by other types of practitioners, but it has some distinctive characteristics. Osteopathic doctors also use OMM to treat infectious disease—not just musculoskeletal disorders.
In 2001, several osteopathic professional organizations agreed to jointly fund a national osteopathic research center at one of the osteopathic medical colleges. Five osteopathic colleges submitted research proposals in response to a request for applications. The University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) was chosen to be the site for the Osteopathic Research Center (ORC) and was funded for four years with $1.1M. Between 2002 and 2007, the ORC received an additional $11M in research support from multiple sources including federal funds. With this support, it has made substantive contributions to science. These include oversight of the recently completed four-year, $1.5M multicenter study on the efficacy of OMM as a treatment for pneumonia in the elderly and a three-year, $1.9M National Institutes of Health–funded developmental research center to perform mechanistic studies of some OMM actions.
The authors discuss the long-term costs, benefits, and sustainability of the national ORC at UNTHSC in the contexts of research accomplished, the training of new medical osteopathic researchers, and an effort to develop other successful regional osteopathic research centers.