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Jason Haxton: "The story is Andrew Taylor Still. One man, 130 years ago, with an idea of bringing better health care."

Jason Haxton wears a green plaid shirt and smiles at the camera.
Rebecca Smith

Jason Haxton spoke with the Missouri on my team at the Kirksville Farmers Market in May.

He's the Director of The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University in Kirksville. He loves his work and spoke about the museum and the legacy of osteopathic medicine in northeast Missouri.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Jason Haxton: So, osteopathic medicine was founded by Andrew Taylor Still. He came up with the concept of osteopathy in 1874.

Dissatisfied with how medicine was at the time, and if you know, in that era – it was burning people and popping blisters, bleeding them to get rid of the bad blood, dosing them with arsenic, mercury, or any of another, any types of harmful medications – and if none of that works, just give them enough morphine, they don't know that they're ill.

And so, Dr. Still still saw in his own life – he lost his first wife, most of his children – that the medicine wasn't working, and so, one of the unique aspects of osteopathic medicine is – we call it "whole person" – is we look at body and spirit, how the two work.

That if you're depressed spiritually, your body takes an effect or if you're injured bodily, your spirit can take a hit. And so, the whole goal of osteopathic medicine is to take everyone where they're at and make them a little bit better.

Well, the museum is a great repository of the story, but the story is Andrew Taylor Still. One man, 130 years ago, with an idea of bringing better health care.

He was just a very natural frontiers person from Missouri, and what he saw in nature was – I don't see animals bleeding, burning, poisoning each other. I see them with their diet, I see them exercising, I see good animal mental health. Maybe we should look at nature and learn from that.

And so, really osteopathic medicine, at its foundation, is the basics of health, and as we say a lot of the health things that we do probably have to do with diet or getting out and exercising. He says you should walk every day. Not only is it good exercise, but then you commune with nature where we come from. What we're talking about today is what he was talking about in teaching 130 years [ago] with that first group.

And the other thing amazing about Dr. Still was his dad was gone preaching and doctoring a lot of time. So, mom was home fixing the roof, patching the fence line, making the shoes – she did everything. As Dr. Still said, "When mom would come home, she continued to do things because she did it better than Dad."

So, when he opened up his first exploratory school – he invited women because he said "women are quite capable."

Plus, as women started having women as doctors, they started going to hospitals more because men not knowing or understanding women so much thought the best thing we could do for a woman – "They're hysterical, give them a hysterectomy," basically, and we'd make them more like a guy.

Well, women wouldn't go to see male doctors, but once women doctors were in the hospital and saying, "Not every woman needs a hysterectomy," they started trusting medicine more, and so, the fascinating thing was as hospitals saw this whole revenue of patients – we'd like to think it was for the good cause of health, but actually there is a bottom line of money – they demanded other schools start hiring women or putting women into schools.

So, Dr. Still changed medicine by actually getting women into the profession, which I think is amazing. Half the student body at A.T. Still University to date are women and that's true of probably most the osteopathic schools.

<i>Caoilinn left KBIA in December of 2022.</i><br/>Caoilinn Goss is the Audio Convergence Editor at KBIA. She trains and oversees student reporters, editors and anchors to produce daily afternoon newscasts. She's also a Missouri Journalism School alum.