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To @wearfigs: “D.O.” Better

Take a female physician — a doctorate of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) — dress her up in hot pink scrubs, give her Medical Terminology for Dummies, and have her read it upside down.

What do you have? The answer is an advertisement for Figs Scrubs (@wearfigs).

Not only is this “advertisement” repulsive, but it also perpetuates the patriarchy that is pervasive in medicine, with its color palette and the model’s apparent inability to read properly — notwithstanding the close-up imagery of a D.O. badge.

This advertisement was not a “lapse of judgment” — it was a calculated attempt to undermine female osteopathic physicians, a large proportion of Figs’ customer base.  This ad, to say the least, is a disgrace to women and osteopathic physicians everywhere.

As a female osteopathic resident physician — one who passed the osteopathic medical board exams for D.O physicians and electively chose to take and score highly on the allopathic (M.D.) board exams — one can imagine my chagrin when I saw several social media posts about this ad after my shift on the pediatric ward. Personally — and thankfully, at this point — I have always been a @greysanatomyscrubs consumer and an admirer of @jaanuubydrneela scrubs, as one of my close friends has always donned them. Because of this, I was never a @wearfigs fan; therefore, admittedly, my chagrin was felt less acutely than those who had spent their hard-earned dollars on these ‘exclusive’ scrubs.

However, as a woman and a D.O., I could not keep silent in the midst of so many purported misconceptions about female physicians and osteopathic medicine. 

I have a D.O. (Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine) behind my name instead of M.D. (Doctorate of Medicine). However, this means that I am an osteopathic resident physician: a doctor with the exact same privileges to practice as my M.D. colleagues. Attending and graduating from an osteopathic medical school required completion of the same core curriculum as any allopathic medical school, but it also included over 400 hours of additional medical training learning musculoskeletal anatomy in the form of osteopathic manipulative medicine. I, and many of my D.O. colleagues, have taken both our required D.O. board exams and opted to pay additional fees to take the unrequired M.D. boards. Physicians who have doctorates of osteopathic medicine have spent hours poring over anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, and all the other medical sciences — just like our M.D. counterparts. We were trained to bring muscles, bones and fascia back into homeostasis. Our education was also centered around the recognition of the correlation between mind, body, and spirit; i.e., the recognition that patients are people who can have both physical medical problems and psychosocial medical issues that affect their well-being. In the briefest of terms, those are the differences. I chose to be a D.O. because of those reasons, and I am no less capable of providing care than my M.D. counterparts. We are equally competent physicians.

I am a woman. As women, we are completely capable of processing information efficiently and correctly. We are not a helpless species needing our male counterparts to guide us through medicine and academia as damsels in distress, and we certainly know if a book is upside down when we read it. We read right-side-up, not upside down. To be clear, as female osteopathic physicians, we do not read medical terminology textbooks to supplement a lack of education. We are fully equipped to 1) read, 2) pass not only osteopathic board exams but also allopathic board exams, and 3) take care of the patients whose lives we are entrusted with. 

I am an appropriately educated female osteopathic physician. So, Figs, I am not standing for your misrepresentation of female physicians as bumbling idiots. Figs (@wearfigs), you can do so much better, and so can we. Thus, my dollars and the dollars of my friends will be directed elsewhere. The ignorance of this advertisement is bigoted misogyny at its finest. Doctors of osteopathic medicine and doctors of medicine are equal. Similar to gender, neither is superior to the other. Female doctors are capable physicians. Osteopathic doctors are capable physicians. So, Figs (@wearfigs), forsake your ignorance and D.O. better!

Image credit: Courtesy of the author.

Ashley Cheek, DO Ashley Cheek, DO (3 Posts)

Editor-in-Chief and Former Social Media Manager

Memorial Health University Medical Center

Ashley recently completed her pediatric residency and served as chief resident. In 2020, she graduated with honors from Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine. In 2012, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Oral Roberts University. Throughout her medical journey, she has mentored students in Campbell’s MSBS program, inspired high school students through Envision National Youth Leadership Conference, and served as a childcare volunteer for the Campbell Community Christmas Store. Her interests include reading, writing, watching Hallmark movies, and spending time with her family (especially through vacations to Disney World & Dollywood). She hopes to contribute encouragement and inspiration to current & future medical students, residents, and fellows.