Ralph P. Eccles, D.O.

I am a retired professor of Family Medicine at Oregon Health & Sciences University

I spent 12 years teaching medical students and residents all aspects of family medicine, including OB and managing patients on ventilators in the ICU. Then I spent 2 years in private practice as an endocrinologist and as a diagnostician evaluating complex patients that primary care providers in the community needed help figuring out what the diagnosis was or how to manage their underlying disease, usually a complicated diabetic, but sometimes complicated thyroid or calcium problems.

Why DO and not MD? Most of my colleagues have an MD degree, some a PhD and some both. A few of my colleagues have a DO degree. After the civil war physicians and surgeons tried to find better ways to treat illnesses. Antibiotics and vaccines were still more than 50 years in the future and anesthesia was minimal. Several schools of thought developed including naturopathy and homeopathy. The idea of treating the musculoskeletal system created osteopathy and the DO degree and from that developed chiropracty and that is more widespread than osteopathy. At that time the MD school of thought was called allopathy, referring to using drugs, which prior to WWI were pretty archaic. Just before WWI, the Flexner Report came out and after that standards were established for medical schools and the osteopathic schools tried to adhere to the same standards. By the 1960's the major osteopathic schools were closely intertwined with the medical schools. Eastern Michigan has both an MD school and DO school on the same campus and students attend mostly the same classes and rotations. In California the large DO school and UCLA were togther and their was virtually no difference in curriculum. California decided to give all the DO's an MD degree, but 50 held out, later sued the State and established a new DO school in Pomona, The College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific.

I got cancer my junior year of college and had radiation. No one advised me to not go back to school for a year, so I tried, but was very tired. As everyone in medicine knows, the toughest premed course is Organic Chemistry and I took it then.  I got a C, which almost eliminates getting into medical school.  I did end up on the alternate list of a couple of schools, but then met a DO and was advised to apply to those schools. The dean of the new school being established in California interviewed me and was so surprised that I not only survived, but that I was now in good health. I was accepted and like most of my fellow DO students, we had chosen DO because we had not been accepted into our state school and the private schools were unbelievably difficult to get into during the Vietnam War.

We were constantly indoctrinated as to why we were different than MD's and therefore better, but the truth is, we took the same courses, often the same exam (I liked getting an A on an exam that was identical to one at Harvard and the University of Chicago). Most of my junior and senior year were spent at the medical school in Portland, OR, where I would later teach.

I did an internship at an osteopathic institution. Then spent 14 years as a GP and a single parent of 4 children.

I then remarried (an MD-we have a mixed marriage), and finished a residency at an MD institution and was board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine (an MD certification body). I had spent a year on the OB service, so I did C-sections. 

In 1999 I was asked to become a fellow in the department of endocrinology at Ohio State University. I did 3 years of study and research in both adult and pediatric endocrinology, especially diabetes.

It was with that background I joined the faculty at Oregon Health and Sciences University,at the Cascades East Family Medicine Resisdency in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

I have taught over the years many MD and DO graduates and medical students.  There is very little difference in the educational background of either. MD's tend to know more genetics, immunology and research techniques, DO's know a little more anatomy and sports medicine. Both are equal in pharmacology, biochemistry, pathophysiology and diagnositics.

Why we still have schools issuing the DO degree and why we don't give all DO's an MD is beyond me. In 2020 it no longer makes sense.  All residencies, both MD and DO are now accredited by the same organization.

Lay people ask, "Where did you go to medical school?" Physicians and others in the medical field don't ask that. They ask, "Where did you train?" In other words, where did you do residency and/or fellowship. My colleagues don't care that I graduated from what is now called Western University of Health Sciences, they care that I trained at Ohio State University.

About me: I was born in McMinnville, OR to a couple who had parents in Portland. My parents moved to Klamath Falls within a year and so I grew up in the town I currently am living in, and spent a lot of time in Portland. I went to Linfield College in McMinnville, but then spent 2 years in Germany before transfering to BYU for my undergraduate degree and start of graduate school. I did a semester in Austria and therefore have a strong interest in Music.

I continued my graduate studies at Portland State University, having a BA in German and most of a BS in Chemistry.

I started a residency in OB/Gyn, but ended up as a GP in the National Health Service in North Dakota and later for the IHS in Arizona. I was a single parent for 14 years, and became one of the first hospitalists and adjunct faculty to the University of Colorado Family Medicine Department.

I then left Colorado and moved to Arizona when I married a woman originally from Klamath Falls. Carrie Ganong, MD went to the same grade school, junior high and college as I, eventually went to medical school after years as an academic nutritionist. She was 19 when we worked together as life guards at the same summer camp, but it was 19 years later when we got married.

After my fellowship and years of research in obesity and diabetes, I became the Medical Director for the Navajo Health Foundation and managed a Robert Wood Johnson grant and several research programs in diabetes.

I then joined the faculty and moved back to Klamath Falls.


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