Dr. Fulford’s TOUCH of LIFE

Robert C. Fulford, DO was a man of few words. He chose his words very carefully and thoughtfully. Thus is no surprise that he chose his book title to be instructional and thought provoking. To Osteopathic physicians he is always trying to get a lesson across. To share his insight of 55 plus years of research and practice. To explain how he was able to get results that no one else could. And to get the message across with as few words as possible.

As with Dr. A. T. Still, Dr. Fulford expected one to think before he acts. Time and time again he would limit a conversation when the class attendant was asking question after question without thinking or truly listening. If one would listen with his mind, to internalize the words into one’s being, philosophy, beliefs, etc.; then one would realize just how powerful and thought provoking this old Dr.’s “simple” comments really were. There were so many occasions when would say one short, succinct sentence and I thought…..this is outrageous….No he is all wrong…..only to sometime later, realize that he is exactly correct! If one would truly listen then a short simple statement by Dr. Fulford would literally shake the foundations of one’s view of medicine, life, and spirituality.

For example: The title of his only published book, TOUCH of LIFE. Why did he choose these words? To me this is what Dr. Fulford was all about. To watch him treat a child and see the results, no other words could so accurately describe his life and his work.

The lesson for Osteopathic physicians is this: Why not entitle the book, “The Technique of Life,” or “Vibration of Life’” or “Breath of Life,” “Touch of Osteopathy,” “Fluids of Life.” Nor was it “Percussion Vibration and Osteopathy,” “CRI and Health,” “Dr. Fulford’s Osteopathy,” “Dr. Fulford on Life and Healing.” These potential titles are only a small part of Dr. Fulford’s practice. The title is the TOUCH of LIFE…Life with a capitol “L.” Those who had the privilege to watch him treat or the extreme privilege, to steady a wiggly child while he treated, knows that the result witnessed and experienced was “Life.” Life in all its glory and manifestations. So many children were finally born into this life as we witnessed their first full breath (though they may be seven or eight years old) under Dr. Fulford’s touch!

Dr. Fulford’s “touch” was unlike any other physician, DO or otherwise. The physical contact was firm yet gentle. His hands and fingers did not move a great deal during treatment. However there was something very different in the contact. There may not have been much perceived physical motion of one’s tissues yet there was profound motion noted at a much deeper level. Again we come back to his book title, TOUCH of LIFE. His entire focus of his mind, thoughts, and being was in his hands, his TOUCH. His intent was in contacting, removing blockages to, and normalizing the Life force within. This he was able to accomplish through his “Touch” and explains why so many people treated by him said that his touch was so completely different than anything else experienced. Thus the use of the word TOUCH (capitol “T”) in the title.

Dr. Fulford epitomized the true understanding and application of the principles and philosophy of Osteopathy. Osteopathy’s founder, A.T. Still, MD, DO asked well over one hundred twenty five years ago: “What is Life” (page 249, The Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy) and he answered that question in the language of his day. The depth and insight that Dr. Still speaks of in discussing Life and how DO’s are to read, study, discover the anatomy, physiology, and philosophy of Life is what Osteopathy is all about.

The proof of the Osteopath’s study is demonstrated by the results obtained in the clinic. It is not political stature, medical school faculty appointment, publishing papers, professional fame and notoriety. The world of medicine and healing for Dr. Fulford was the results obtained. He did not like crowds,, speaking in public, or long conversations. All thoughts, research, techniques, and practice are to release the Life Force in the patient. To do what it takes to keep Life ever present, at full force, in every cell in the body. If an HVLA technique (Dr. Fulford called this “brut force and awkwardness”) is the key to restore Life than that is the procedure of choice. Doc was not totally against its use. If balancing the temporal bones restores Life than that is the technique required. So on and so forth through the list of techniques. However, if magnet or crystal is what is needed than that is the technique necessary for healing.

Dr. Still did not teach technique because the tendency for doctors to focus on the intricacies of the technique. The assumption is that if one does the technique perfectly than the patient is healed. Similar to today’s situation where the surgery was a success so the patient should be better because the technique was done perfectly and the patient is alive. Or “This is the right drug for your symptoms so you should be better now.” Dr. Fulford’s focus is on Life first and foremost and its restoration in Health, and not the technique or procedure! Dr. Fulford in his percussion hammer courses always strove to keep the focus and intent of the doctor’s mind on the energy of Life as the central concept in all techniques and procedures demonstrated. This was and still is completely different to all OMT technique courses taught today!

Disease and symptomatology means that something is wrong in the flow of Life somewhere between the hairdo and the toenails. The cause of the mischief that eventually became a symptom or disease can be as far back as conception, the first trimester of pregnancy, birth, the first breath, childhood trauma, to name a few. To touch the patient with hands looking for the “mischief,” or restriction to Life, is the goal of the Osteopathic physician. Taking away or inhibiting a symptom (i.e. allopathy) is only that. It does nothing in relation to influencing the Life force. The cause is still there untouched. In many cases trying to eliminate symptoms can be detrimental to the Life force by toxicity (side effects) and/or not allowing a condition to go through its normal course. Sometimes however, treating the symptom is necessary to buy some time from a morbid state so the cause (i.e. restrictions and impediments to the Life force) can properly addressed, and the Life directed back towards a more normal state (Health).

As Dr. Still stated in 1892: “To find health is the object of the doctor. Anyone can find the disease.”(page 72, Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy) The focus of thought, evaluation, and treatment is LIFE; how it got messed up, and how to restore it through touch. If I may be so bold, I feel that Dr. Fulford’s life and practice has redefined Dr. Still’s quote to now state: “To find LIFE is the object of the doctor. Anyone can find the disease.” Dr. Robert C. Fulford, has demonstrated that Osteopathy truly is the “TOUCH of LIFE!”
Thanks again for the lesson Doc!

Your Loving Student,

Richard W. Koss, DO
May 21, 2011


This video was produced by Biomedical Communications, AHSC, University of Arizona. Copyright Arizona Board of Regents.