The osteopathic profession originated in the Midwest during the last half of the nineteenth century. "Osteopathy," as it was then called, was conceived by a Kansas country doctor, Andrew Taylor Still, who received his medical training under his father, a physician and Methodist circuit rider on the Missouri and Kansas frontier. Dr. Still, who has been described as eccentric and nonconforming, was also an innovative thinker who sought to improve the healing methods of his day. In 1874 he announced a unique concept of the nature of disease. Still concluded that the body is inherently self-healing and that health depends upon the integrity of the musculoskeletal system. He devised a method of manipulation designed to treat disease by correcting altered body mechanics. Still's ideas embroiled him in controversy and served only to estrange him from the medical community he sought to reform. In due course he moved to Kirksville, Missouri, where he eventually developed a thriving, well-known practice based on his osteopathic principles. In 1892 Still established the first osteopathic medical school, the American School of Osteopathy. By the turn of the century the ASO offered a full-fledged medical curriculum and had an enrollment of 700 students pursuing the doctor of osteopathy degree.
Graduates of the ASO and other newly founded osteopathic colleges set up practices throughout the United States. In Texas, tradition has held that David L. Clark became the state's first osteopathic physician when he opened an office in Sherman in 1898. Recent investigation has revealed that at least a year earlier (1897) a woman osteopath, Mollie Baldwin, had established a practice in Waco. Clark, however, organized the first osteopathic association in the state, the Texas Association for the Advancement of Osteopathy (now the Texas Osteopathic Medical Association), in 1900 and served as its first president. In 1907 the revised Texas Medical Practice Act granted osteopathic physicians full medical practice rights. Three osteopaths were appointed to the state medical examining board, thus establishing a practice that has prevailed to the present day.
Osteopathic medicine has experienced steady growth nationally and in Texas. By the time of A. T. Still's death in 1917, more than 5,000 osteopaths were in practice. Due to the recent increase in the number of osteopathic medical schools, present-day figures reflect an exponential growth. In 1986 there were 24,012 osteopaths practicing in the United States; of this number 2,292 held Texas medical licenses. In Texas, as in all other states, osteopaths are fully licensed physicians and surgeons.
There were few hospitals operating under osteopathic auspices in Texas before 1936, when national standards were established by the American Osteopathic Association. However, by World War II approved hospitals had been established in Dallas, Tyler, Corpus Christi, Amarillo, Houston, and a number of smaller communities. In 1988 the American Osteopathic Association approved eleven civilian and military hospitals in Texas for intern and resident training and accredited an additional twenty-four. Osteopaths have privileges or are in specialty training in 230 "combined staff" (M.D.-D.O.) hospitals in the state. Standards for osteopathic medical schools were first established by the AOA in 1902. On-site inspections began the following year. Regulations for admission and curriculum content have kept pace with most non-osteopathic medical colleges. As of 1987 there were fifteen approved schools of osteopathic medicine in the United States, with 6,500 students. Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (now the University of North Texas Health Science Center), the only Texas medical school offering the D.O. degree, was opened in Fort Worth in 1970. It became state supported under the Board of Regents of North Texas State University in 1975. Today's doctors of osteopathic medicine are trained in all scientifically accepted methods of diagnosis and treatment, while retaining their osteopathic uniqueness. Approximately 90 percent of the state's osteopathic physicians are engaged in primary care. Many of them practice in small, underserved rural communities.