Introducing myself and my specialty to a new patient proves confusing on many levels. Between the unlikely pronunciation of my surname and the obscurity of my specialty, there is no clear and easy opener. Add to that the cumbersome 25 syllables required to give full credence to my certification, helped minimally, if at all, by its consonant-ridden abbreviation and I am met more often than not with blank stares and a request for re-explanation. Try it on for size:
“Hello, I’m Dr. Bueche, like a Bee and a Key (yes, I say that every time as they look at my name badge and question the pronunciation). I’m with the NMM/OMM department – Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine. Dr. X asked me to see you regarding your back pain to see if there is anything not moving well with the rest of your body that could be helped with gentle hands on treatment.”
At this point, I usually acknowledge that those were indeed a lot of words and try to clarify – that I am an osteopathic physician, trained to use my hands to evaluate and treat areas in the body that aren’t moving properly to help their body heal or pain resolve as efficiently as possible. In an attempt to make light of what is sometimes an awkward moment, I offer that it’s okay if they don’t fully understand because after 8 years in practice, my mom still doesn’t know what I do and has resorted to calling it “LMNOP.”
Though the earful could be lessened by simplifying the concept or leaving out the full name of the specialty, I can’t bring myself to omit it. On the contrary, I wonder if more should be made of each encounter to shine more light on NMM/OMM, to bring it from obscure to mainstream. Admittedly biased, as I am a member of this small subset within osteopathic medicine, I would propose that these “ LMNOP-ers” are medicine’s best, albeit unintentionally, kept secret. From this I would challenge, especially as we stand on the cusp of merging osteopathic and allopathic post-graduate training, that it is time to own the positive potential of our unique offerings and make ourselves known.
I hesitated on first consideration of my own challenge as it seemed contrary to a concept espoused by my dad which I have long upheld – that no one should have to ask you what you stand for as it should be clear in how you live your life. With this in mind, I have long considered ways in which the osteopathic concepts could be embodied and attempt to implement them in my day-to-day life to share through example, but I wonder if I am taking this idea too literally. Perhaps there is room for interpretation and, if an important message is being suppressed, words are required to support the, admittedly much louder, actions.
In a homophonic coincidence, the only book I have ever managed to complete in time to allow my participation in monthly book club discussion, Ella Minnow Pea is a clever work of fiction sharing the tale of a town dedicated to the written word and, even as their beloved letters are taken away, the citizens hold strong to their identity and refuse to relinquish their dedication to writing. They see the value in their form of communication and defend it steadfastly. As “LMNOP” has echoed in my mind today, I thought back to reading this book and draw from the dedication of the townsfolk, considering what I know to be valuable in my work, challenge myself to take up their unwavering defense and apply it to my own amalgamation of letters.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty in promotion and propagation of NMM/OMM is that we have not yet solidified a singular identity – even within this small, and subsequently familiar, specialty college, we have not decided how we should present ourselves to the world. I do not pretend to speak for all of my colleagues, but I would like to take a moment and appreciate what I have found in my years of training, practice and teaching within this specialty:
I am grateful to be part of the osteopathic profession with my education founded in its tenets
I am fascinated by the intricacies of anatomy and physiology
I am humbled by the opportunity to engage and interact with the neuromusculoskeletal system through osteopathic manipulation
I am privileged to seek health with my patients
I am inspired by the foundation as established by AT Still and liberated by the directive to Dig On
There is good, powerful, meaningful work being done quietly in many clinics all across the country by the NMM/OMM physicians I am fortunate to have as colleagues and it is my hope that they will share their stories, increase access for patients and encourage new generations of osteopaths to discover and pursue the specialty. Giving new meaning to the phrase coined by my mom:
From this, I hope all are encouraged to move past the usual inhibitions associated with self-promotion, find and accentuate the good our work can offer and allow it to be made more meaningful through distribution. May we honor the letters that make us who we are, find clarity in completeness and be encouraged to share our story.