How TCOM’s Dr. John Licciardone helped advance osteopathic medicine with King Charles III
It was early February in 2008 when John Licciardone, DO, MS, MBA, FACPM hopped into a hackney carriage in London, commonly known as a taxi, for a ride to the airport after giving the keynote presentation at a conference. The cabbie asked the now-Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine Regents Professor at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth what he saw while he was in London. Licciardone told him that he had met with Prince Charles. The shocked driver exclaimed, “I’ve been driving for 30 years, and I’ve never had anyone say they met the prince.”
Indeed, Licciardone had been invited to the United Kingdom to give a keynote address and was given a private audience with the prince who would go on to become King Charles III. The conference was a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the recognition of osteopathy within the National Health Service in the UK.
“King Charles has been a patron of osteopathy and helped facilitate its recognition in the UK,” Licciardone said. “He was very interested in our ORC (Osteopathic Research Center) research and the status of osteopathic medicine ‘across the pond.’”
In 2005, Dr. Licciardone published the groundbreaking study of osteopathic manipulative treatment for lower back pain, which involved a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
“This research technique had been applied in other areas of medicine but never in the osteopathic field until 2005,” Licciardone said. “It received a lot of visibility at the time, and it’s still one of the most frequently cited articles on osteopathic medicine.”
Osteopathy was a burgeoning field in the UK at the time and becoming more recognized as an accepted practice. The UK’s National Council for Osteopathic Research invited Licciardone to give the keynote address at the 2008 Advancing Osteopathy Conference, which celebrated the advances of osteopathy and its recognition.
Prince Charles himself noted at the time, “For more than two decades I have both observed and encouraged the progress of the osteopathic profession in the UK. It is 10 years since the opening of the Statutory Register, and, as a result of that, all osteopaths are now regulated in the same way as doctors and dentists.
“I am especially proud to have played a small role in helping to secure the necessary steps toward ensuring that osteopathy became the first complementary medicine profession to achieve statutory recognition,” the monarch continued. “I remain utterly convinced that the profession will continue to develop and build on these standards of excellence in the years ahead.”
The big moment to meet Prince Charles came at a private reception at the historic Drapers Hall in London. With so many dignitaries waiting to meet the Prince, they were divided into groups of about eight people, and the Prince would visit with each group. Prince Charles made it a point to have a specific dialogue and questions with everyone, and that included Dr. Licciardone.
“He asked me about osteopathic research in the States, and was very interested in how things were different in the UK and the US,” Licciardone said. “I also told him about the ORC research that was going on at the time, including our NIH-funded OSTEOPATHIC Trial, which was the largest single-site clinical trial involving any form of spinal manipulation. Nobody in the UK was doing research on this scale, and I think that’s why they gravitated toward me to give this presentation.”
The conference began the next day, fittingly, in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. Licciardone’s presentation, “What’s the Evidence? Osteopathy Answers Back,” was very well received. There is no measure of the impact of having King Charles III supporting osteopathy in the UK.
“It helped legitimize osteopathy in the UK and really gave a big boost to osteopathy in other countries,” Licciardone said.
A meeting with the Prince of Wales was not all that came with the keynote invitation. Licciardone was appointed as a consultant by the World Health Organization to help assess the training and education of osteopathic physicians and osteopaths all over the world. In 2010, the WHO published a summary of its training benchmarks and recommendations.
“We helped the WHO come up with recommendations to ensure the safety of people who go to osteopaths in other countries,” he said. “The UK conference and WHO consultation converged around the same time and more robust methods of classifying and regulating osteopathy worldwide came about.”
The United States has been exporting osteopathic philosophy across the world while growing it at home. As of 2021, there were roughly 117,000 practicing osteopathic physicians in the US; worldwide there are about 80,000 osteopaths, and the number is growing. France is leading the way with more than 33,000 statutory regulated and registered osteopaths. In the UK, that number is more than 5,000 and continues to rise each year.
Decades ago, when renowned osteopathic physician, Dr. Murray Goldstein, urged his fellow osteopathic colleagues to do more research, Licciardone took his message and put it into action. It led him to show an international audience and a future monarch of the British crown what OMT can do, including the evidence to support it.