Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

Discover a growing class of physicians known as Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) who are physician/surgeons. These medical doctors are just as qualified as your Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) counterparts. But in actual reality osteopaths have more training because of their 200 hours of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM).

As a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) you can practice modern medicine and go into any medical specialty of your choosing, although many DOs focus on primary care. Regardless of your specialty your duties as a medical doctor will include:

  • prescribing medications
  • performing surgery
  • diagnosing and treating diseases/illness.

Osteopathic Doctor (DO) vs. Allopathic Doctor (MD)

What sets these doctors apart is their view on treating patients. As a D.O. your focus will be on helping individuals achieve wellness by emphasizing health promotion and disease prevention. 

This means you will focus on the patient first and not the disease or symptoms. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine are trained to take a more holistic approach whereas the M.D. will treat your symptoms and disease first. 

By attending one of the osteopathic medical schools you will spend an extra 200 hours of learning the art of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). Don't worry this takes place over your four years of medical school. Basically you will learn osteopathic manipulation  medicine to help your patients:

  • alleviate pain
  • restore motion
  • support the body's natural functions
  • influence body structure to improve function

D.O. Training

Sorry there are no short cuts to becoming a doctor. To become an osteopathic doctor you must apply via AACOMAS to attend an osteopathic medical school where you will graduate with the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree. Medical school lasts four years the same amount of time it takes for allopathic medical students to earn their Doctor of Medicine degree.

Here are the deadlines:

From the first day of medical school osteopathic medicine focuses on considering the patient as more than a collection of organs, body parts or systems which may become diseased and injured. Osteopathic medical schools produce doctors who rely on holistic training and form a partnership with their patients so they can lead healthy lives.

After medical school you may wish to further specialize by enrolling in a residency program. Your residency will be the same length as in allopathic medicine and you have access to all of the medical specialties. 

As of July 2015 the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) will oversee both allopathic and osteopathic residencies in one unified system. This means DOs will have the opportunity to train in allopathic residencies but allopaths cannot train in a osteopathic residency. 

Clearly, the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine is getting the best of both worlds. 

One a side note, many osteopathic medical students will study for their Boards using USMLE material because it mirrors what they are required to know and they'll just pickup supplemental review materials for the OMM portion of their Board exams.

Osteopathic Trends

Today, nearly one in five medical school students are training to become osteopathic physicians.  

There was once a time when becoming a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine was looked down upon by MDs but this view is changing as osteopathic doctors grow in numbers and become more commonplace throughout healthcare.  

Here's a story...

I know a MD who is at retirement age and he states, "You can be a DO they do everything a regular MD does." But the kicker is in his next sentence when he says, "I'll take a MD over a DO any day though."

I share the above story to point out that there is some bias against the osteopathic degree by allopathic doctors especially the older physicians. But as more and more osteopathic doctors join the healthcare ranks people are beginning to realize these are highly capable and competent doctors. 

The only thing you really need to have is a "thick skin" to deal with some of the negative views you may face as a DO. For instance, some people believe you only go to osteopathic medical school because you weren't smart enough to get into an allopathic medical school. 

While at other times you'll have to defend and explain exactly what sets you apart from your M.D. colleagues when interacting with patients. Although, most patients won't question you on anything because all they will here is, "Dr._____, is here to....." and that will be the end of the discussion.

Primary Care Mission

A surprising fact is that most osteopathic medical schools produce doctors who practice primary care. But if you know the mission statement of these institutions you will understand why. 

Osteopathic medicine is focused on providing care in rural and urban underserved areas. DOs make up 7 percent of all U.S. physicians but they are responsible for 16 percent of patient visits in communities with less than 2,500 people.