I just returned from my first module in my second academic year at the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy and I want to share some thoughts. I want to share what I see as the standout qualities of the CAO.
The CAO is a school that is true to its stated purpose – to teach students the principles of Osteopathy so that they may work with any condition effectively and not rely on technique. This is extremely evident in the way that the classes flow between lectures and labs – there is a lecture on a certain subject that discusses the principles of a treatment (including relevant anatomy and physiology) and then it is straight to the tables where students are challenged to apply those principles to a treatment of their lab partner. During the lab all students are questioned and further taught about relevant anatomy and physiology. The principles of Osteopathy are always present and the information is woven together seamlessly. There is never a time when Osteopathy is not being taught. There is no segregation of topics, no time when we as students are dealing with Muscle Energy to the quadratus lumborum and nothing else – we as students are taught the principles of Muscle Energy, Strain – Counter-strain, Myofascial Release, Functional Technique, and every other “Osteopathic technique” and then challenged to create a “technique” using the principles from all different angles and positions. Through this process technique becomes irrelevant to a CAO student, the only thing left is treatment of Osteopathic lesions based on the principles.
The above paragraph may seem convoluted. Why would I say we don’t learn technique or that technique doesn’t matter? Because technique is based on the lesion present, the Operator, and the patient – through the interaction of these factors the Operator must choose the appropriate method to achieve the necessary result and be able to alter the approach based on what the lesion presents with treatment. The Osteopathic Operator is required to respond to what they find with the patient – a technique can not be chosen before the lesion is understood. Dr. Still told Osteopathic Operators to “find it, fix it, and leave it alone”. He did not say “find it, choose a technique you have already learned, fix it, and leave it alone”. Dr. Still did not teach technique, he taught principles. The CAO teaches principles. I am not sure if anyone said this about Robert Johnston before me – I consider Robert Johnston the Principal with Principles.
I will clarify something here. I am not suggesting that the CAO does not teach basic technique, it does. Palpation and SAFE set up of various patient positions are taught. Understanding how to assess a body Osteopathically is taught. From those basic points the CAO student then learns how to apply principles in all situations through lab work.
Another very important part of the CAO education is the student clinic. The CAO student clinic is a well supervised space that students who have finished their first year and above are given the opportunity to work with patients. Lower year students (years 1 and 2) are paired with upper year students (years 3 and 4) and everyone is supervised by an experienced CAO graduate. There are multiple levels of safety so that patients are well taken care of. The big deal is that from the beginning of our education CAO students are exposed to working with patients in the clinical setting.
All in all my biased view is that the CAO teaches Osteopathy as it is meant to be taught. It is the principles that guide us. It is the principles that matter. The principles are based on the laws of nature. The CAO bases the educational experience on the understanding and application of the principles.