Defining Osteopathic Medicine: Crafting Your Elevator Speech

When I tell friends that I work at the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME), I receive a variety of responses.  From those who confuse ‘osteopathic’ with ‘osteoporosis’ to those who simply stare at me wide eyed, and then nod mechanically in hopes of covering their confusion.

But there’s a bright side. Moments like this are an opportunity to build awareness about the profession. National Osteopathic Medicine (NOM) and International Osteopathic Healthcare (IOH) week was developed to encourage all of us in the osteopathic medical community to do just that — spread the word about osteopathic medicine to friends, family, neighbors, and, if they don’t know already, your patients. That makes today the perfect time to work on your elevator speech.

What makes a great elevator speech?

The elevator speech is simple, the point is to make your case so succinctly the whole explanation would fit in the space of a short elevator ride. It takes some forethought, practice, and a bit of creative writing, but there’s really no substitute for the short and sweet.

Traditionally, you’re trying to communicate 3 things: who you are, what you do, and what makes you different than the others.

Building your elevator speech.

You know who you are and what you do better than we do, but the meat of what you share will be what makes you different. The AOA has a sample to get you started:

“There are two types of fully licensed physicians in the U.S. – MDs and DOs. Our training and education are very similar and equally rigorous, but DOs come at the practice of medicine from a different philosophy. We tend to partner with our patients to help them get healthy and stay well.​​”

That gives a good framework. Play with it, make it work for you, or just stick to the script if you prefer.

Looking for an alternative? You could try:

Osteopathic medicine focuses on a whole body approach to medicine – mind, body and spirit with special consideration to the idea that the body has the unique ability to self-heal.

Time to talk?

Provided you’re not literally in an elevator, you may have time for a more free-form conversation. In that case, ask your listener a question about themselves. This has the dual benefit of engaging the listener, and allowing you to customize what you share. For instance:

 “Do you know if your doctor’s an MD or a DO?” could reveal how much, or little information they have on the subject. If they know a bit about MDs already you can stress the similarity of the training and rigor, with the added benefit of the holistic osteopathic philosophy and maybe even tell them a bit about osteopathic manipulative treatment.

“What do you like to do to keep healthy?” can reveal a person’s own philosophy towards their own health. Someone who takes an active approach in their own health might respond to idea of a doctor partnering with them to help heal themselves.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk about what you like. There’s nothing more engaging than a person speaking on a topic they’re sincerely excited about, and there’s plenty to be excited about in osteopathic medicine. If you’re really into OMT, or the whole person approach, let your listeners know why.

These are just some techniques you can use to boost osteopathic awareness among the people in your life. It may take some practice to get comfortable, but with the right words and some genuine enthusiasm, you’ll be a proper DO advocate in no time.