I had the pleasure of attending a symposium at the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy (CAO). For the week following, I visited the school and was honoured to spend a bit of time with the founder and principle, Rob Johnston. As we have both practiced osteopathy in our own countries, each other’s countries and across the globe, comparisons were made and critiques passed as to how osteopathy has diversified since the days of Andrew Taylor Still. (Andrew Taylor Still was a physician and surgeon, including army doctor during the American Civil War, at a time when medicine commonly included arsenic and usually caused more harm than good. He laid down the principles of osteopathic medicine and founded the first school of osteopathy in 1892. The CAO adheres to these principles.)
As we chewed the schnitzel, as it were, I found Rob’s insight profound and at times poetic. He kindly agreed to a formal interview from which, I’d like to share some extracts. A link to the full interview can be found at the end of the article.
Rob Johnston. Principle of the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy.
Tell me about the CAO.
“The CAO is a small school located in Hamilton, Ontario. We have around 400 students and I’m very proud of what we are doing because we’re trying to take osteopathy back to its roots. I think very often times in today’s society when we’re trying to prove ourselves and be validated by every external source, we don’t spend much time validating internally. I think the further you depart from Dr Still’s understanding, the further you get away from what is truly osteopathy“.
What is Osteopathy?
“Osteopathy is for folks to get better, to self heal, to self correct. It’s a manual non-invasive, non-drug method of improving one’s health with the notion of removing obstructions. When Dr Still said to remove obstruction, that’s exactly what he meant – we are trying to put the body in a position of self-healing and self-regulating by dealing with the four rivers of life: nerve, artery, vein, lymphatic.
Osteopathy doesn’t treat conditions necessarily; the body has the capacity and the infinite wisdom to do that. What I try to do is respect that infinite wisdom that it has, remove obstruction to the best of my ability, create a better balance between structure and function and let mother nature do what she is able to do”.
At what point is osteopathy most effective?
Certainly in the early stages because to respect osteopathy, you have to respect the power of nature. We like to get involved with our patients early on and not over-treat or under treat but treat them when they require treatment and to be a part of their overall understanding of healthcare. If we do that, they can live a nice, long strong life, enjoy their family, their friends, their children, their loved ones”.
There’s so much information on the internet. Why can’t people fix themselves?
“I think information doesn’t necessarily mean knowledge and boy, we’re inundated, certainly this side of the ocean, we’re inundated with what to think, how to think, who to think with and who not to think with. I’m just asking for people to find some quiet time and do some of their own thinking which would be interesting”.
How have the demands of healthcare changed over the years?
“I come from a city that in 1980 had 40,000 people working on the bay front in the steel industry and the types of lesions and the types of physical problems people had when they worked physically with their bodies are very different from the types of people we see living in the city in Hamilton now who work in Toronto downtown Bay Street, in the finance areas, the bankers and so on and so forth. Different physical discretions based on some of their, nowadays, mental/ emotional strain. The earlier types of patients we saw in this city had physical discord but emotionally, they were quite well. Now we see more emotional discord manifesting in the physical body. That’s going to be a challenge for us osteopaths. Different types of lesions, different layers of lesioning, different lesioning patterns, all based in and around a thought process. Or the inability, perhaps to deal with this explosiveness, we live in with so much information, as I spoke to you about earlier. People are living a different type of life and it’s manifesting differently in the body”.
How would you like to be remembered?
“I worked hard, I tried my best and I was a good Dad. That’s about it”.