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Training the Next Generation of Osteopaths: Adrienne Kania, DO

Adrienne Kania, DO, always knew she would grow up to be a doctor, but she didn’t know what kind of doctor she was destined to be until she started working at a hospital at the age of 17. “I overheard some MDs talking about ‘those other doctors.’ I just kept my mouth shut and listened and figured out they were talking about DOs. Shortly after that, I had to go see my own doctor for some immunizations and, low and behold, I’d been going to a DO my whole life. I started asking my DO about osteopathy and he mentioned particularly about doing manipulations. I said, ‘Other doctors don’t crack your neck when you’re sick?’ It was such a revelation to me. Here I’d been going to a DO all along and not even realizing there was a different way of practicing medicine.”

After undergraduate school, Dr. Kania fell into a job as a computer programmer for the IRS. While she enjoyed the work, she continued to apply to Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine where she ended up specializing in internal medicine. She later opened a private practice in Colorado Springs. A “serendipitous” last minute visit to an open house at the newly opened Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine led her to teaching. While touring the college’s OMM lab, she started talking to the department chair. When he realized she had experience in visceral manipulation, he offered her a job on the spot and she found a passion for sharing knowledge with others.

“The best part of my job is when I’m teaching a skill in the lab and the student finally gets the concept. They just light up,” she said. “It is such a wonderful feeling to recognize and see that understanding. Part of the draw for me to come to BCOM was the opportunity to shape some of the curriculum, to shape the next generation of DOs who will take over what we’ve started.”

Despite her specialization in Internal Medicine, Dr. Kania’s original fascination with Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) never left her. At Michigan State, they taught the basics, and she supplemented by taking every OMM/Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) related elective she could. “Early in my career, a patient came in complaining of shoulder pain,” she remembers. “I determined it was musculoskeletal related, but when I went to pull out my prescription pad, my patient asked, ‘Isn’t there another option?’ That moment was like a cosmic slap in the head for me.”

Dr. Kania used OMM techniques to successfully treat that patient, and gradually developed a practice where three-quarters of her patients were regularly receiving OMT, despite still being an Internal Medicine practice. “OMM isn’t just for taking care of musculoskeletal issues; it’s for treating every condition, including blood pressure and asthma,” Dr. Kania notes.

In treating another memorable patient, Dr. Kania employed the visceral technique—a highly skilled manipulation of the internal organs with the hands on the abdomen and pelvis—to help relieve pain and ended up normalizing the patient’s blood pressure. She began studying the correlation between using visceral manipulation to restore blood flow to the kidneys and a decrease in blood pressure. This March, she will be conferred as a Fellow of the American Osteopathic Association based in large part on her thesis work on the subject.

When her group practice in Colorado eventually closed, Dr. Kania found herself at a crossroads. She heeded the urging of several former colleagues from Rocky Vista to join them at BCOM, and made the move to Las Cruces last year. She accepted a position as an associate professor of OMM because it afforded her the opportunity to concentrate on her research and share her knowledge of OMT/OMM with the next generation of osteopathic physicians. At BCOM, she is hoping to involve the students in her continuing research into the manipulation of the kidneys and its effect on blood pressure, as well as other studies, including a look at changes in arterial flow based on manipulation of the iliac arteries.

Her other goals include getting a visceral manipulation course added to the third-year curriculum, and hopefully one day a cranial manipulation course as well. She’s also excited about working on the OMM Department’s goal of creating a video library of techniques, and she hopes to start coaching students to compete in the American Academy of Osteopathy Convocation.

When she’s not in the classroom or OMM laboratory, Dr. Kania might be found traveling to Continuing Medical Education events—she’s been to eight in the past year alone, five of which she taught at. With her hectic schedule, she admits she hasn’t had much time to explore Las Cruces yet, but said she’s enjoying her Southwestern-style home immensely. In her rare bits of free time, she spends time with her two daughters and her five-year-old grandson, and she hopes one day to have the time to pursue her jewelry-making and weaving hobbies. If that’s not enough, she might just finish up the science fiction fantasy novel she’s been kicking around in her head on the long drives between Las Cruces and Colorado Springs.

She added with a laugh, “I’m only halfway through life. I need to make it to 120 because I’ve got a lot of things planned.”