What is a DO?
If you're like most people, you've been going to a doctor ever since you were born, and perhaps were not aware whether you were seeing a D.O. (Osteopathic Physician) or an M.D. (Allopathic Physician). You may not even be aware that there are these two types of complete physicians in the United States.
The fact is, both D.O.s and M.D.s are complete physicians. They are both licensed to perform surgery and prescribe medication in all 50 states. Is there any difference between these two kinds of doctors? Yes. And no.
D.O.s and M.D.s are alike in many ways:
- "Applicants to both D.O. and M.D. colleges typically have a four year undergraduate degree with an emphasis on science courses.
- "Both D.O.s and M.D.s complete four years of basic medical education.
- "After medical school; both D.O.s and M.D.s can choose to practice in a specialty area of medicine -- such as psychiatry, surgery or obstetrics-- after completing a residency program (typically four to six years of additional training).
- "Both D.O.s and M.D.s must pass comparable state licensing examinations.
- "D.O.s and M.D.s both practice in fully accredited and licensed hospitals and medical centers.
D.O.s comprise a separate, yet equal branch of American medical care. Together, D.O.s and M.D.s enhance the state of care available in America.
However, it's the ways that D.O.s and M.D.s are different that can bring an extra dimension to your family's healthcare.
100 Years of Unique Care
Osteopathic medicine is a unique form of American medical care that was developed in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, M.D. Dr. Still was dissatisfied with the effectiveness of 19th Century medicine. He believed that many of the medications of his day were useless or even harmful. Dr. Still was one of the first in his time to study the attributes of good health so that he could better understand the process of disease.
In response Dr. Still founded a philosophy of medicine based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. The philosophy focuses on the unity of all body parts. He identified the musculoskeletal system as a key element of health. He recognizes the body's ability to heal itself and stressed preventive medicine, eating properly and keeping fit.
Dr. Still pioneered the concept of "wellness" 100 years ago. In today's terms, personal health risks -- such as smoking, high blood pressure, excessive cholesterol levels, stress and other lifestyle factors -- are evaluated for each individual. In coordination with appropriate medical treatment, the osteopathic physician acts as a teacher to help patients take more responsibility for their own well-being and change unhealthy patterns.
Sports medicine is also a natural outgrowth of osteopathic practice, because of its focus on the musculoskeletal system, osteopathic manipulative treatment, diet, exercise and fitness. Many professional sports team physicians and Olympic physicians are D.O.s.
21st Century, Frontier Medicine
Just as Dr. Still pioneered osteopathic medicine on the Missouri frontier in 1874, today osteopathic physicians serve as modern day medical pioneers.
They continue the tradition of bringing healthcare to areas of greatest need:
" Over half of all osteopathic physicians practice in primary care areas, such as pediatrics, general practice obstetrics/gynecology and internal medicine.
" Many D.O.s fill a critical need for family doctors by practicing in small towns and rural areas.
Today osteopathic physicians continue to be on the cutting edge of modern medicine. D.O.s are able to combine today's awesome medical technology with the tools of their ears, to listen caringly to their patients; their eyes, to see their patients as whole persons; and their hands, to diagnose and treat injury and illness.
Additional information may be found in the American Osteopathic Association's brochures "Osteopathic Medicine" and "Osteopathic Medical Education"
D.O.s bring something extra to medicine:
- "Osteopathic medical schools emphasize training students to be primary care physicians.
- "D.O.s practice a "whole person" approach to medicine. Instead of just treating specific symptoms or illnesses, they regard your body as an integrated whole.
- "Osteopathic physicians focus on preventive healthcare.
- "D.O.s receive extra training in the musculoskeletal system --- your body's interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones that make up two-thirds of its body mass. This training provides osteopathic physicians with a better understanding of the ways that an injury or illness in one part of your body can affect another. It gives D.O.s a therapeutic and diagnostic advantage over those who do not receive additional specialized training.
- "Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is incorporated in the training and practice of osteopathic physicians. With OMT , osteopathic physicians use their hands to diagnose injury and illness and to encourage your body's natural tendency toward good health. By combining all other medical procedures with OMT, D.O.s offer their patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.
Osteopathic Medical Education
A D.O., or doctor of osteopathic medicine, is a complete physician, fully trained and licensed to prescribe medication, perform surgery, and utilize manipulative therapy.
Osteopathic medicine emphasizes the relationship among the body's nerves, muscles, bones and organs. The osteopathic philosophy of treating the whole person is applied to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illness, disease and injury.
Osteopathic physicians serve as family doctors to millions of people throughout the United States. They first train in general practice and many receive additional training in specialty areas such as psychiatry, pediatrics, obstetrics, surgery, ophthalmology or cardiology.
Preparing for Admission
To be considered for admission to one of 15 osteopathic medical schools, applicants typically complete four years of undergraduate work, culminating in a bachelor's degree. Most osteopathic medical schools also require one year each of English, biological sciences, physics, general chemistry and organic chemistry. Some schools have other requirements such as genetics, mathematics or psychology; these are listed in the catalogs available from each osteopathic medical school, listed at the end of this page.
Prospective osteopathic medical students must also exhibit a genuine concern for people. Osteopathic medicine is a people - oriented profession that demands dedicated and empathetic individuals. Osteopathic colleges require a personal interview to assess the applicant's communication skills and learn more about why that person wants to become an osteopathic physician. The applicant may wish to spend some time with a D.O. or do volunteer work in healthcare before applying.
Continuing Medical Education
Continuing Medical Education, as the term implies, is a lifetime commitment to learning by osteopathic physicians in full recognition of the fact that the study of medicine does not end with graduation from medical school. The American Osteopathic Association requires its members to complete a specific number of continuing medical education credits during each three-year period in order to maintain membership.
The D.O. Curriculum
The first two years of the osteopathic medical curriculum focus on basic sciences such as anatomy and physiology, often enhanced by early exposure to clinical work. The third and fourth years emphasize the clinical work and much of the teaching takes place in community hospitals, major medical centers and doctors' offices.
During these clinical years, students study areas such as general practice, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, surgery and pediatrics. Students rotate through urban, suburban and rural settings, experiencing all areas of medicine.
Osteopathic principles and practices are integrated throughout the four-year curriculum. Students learn to use osteopathic techniques for diagnosis and treatment of disease, as well as for disease prevention. The curriculum emphasizes the relationship of body systems and holistic patient care.
Postdoctoral Training & Licensure
Following graduation, D.O.s must complete an approved 12-month internship. Interns rotate through major hospital departments such as internal medicine, general practice and surgery. Many D.O.s then choose to take a residency program in a specific area, requiring four to six years of additional training.
D.O.s are licensed for the full practice of medicine and surgery in each of the 50 states, Each state determines the tests and procedures for licensing physicians in that state. In some other states, the same tests are given to D.O.s and M.D.s; other states administer separate licensing exams.
Area Osteopathic Medical Colleges
University of Pikeville College of Osteopathic Medicine
Pikeville, KY 41501
West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (http://www.wvsom.edu/west_virginia_school_of_osteopathic_medicine.aspx)
400 North Lee Street
Lewisburg, West Virginia 24901
Other Osteopathic Medical Colleges
For More Information
For further information about the Kentucky Osteopathic Medical Association, osteopathic medicine, or D.O.s in your area, contact the KOMA office at 1-608-441-1060 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask about our new KOMA "Osteopathic Medicine" brochure.
For more information about osteopathic medicine contact the American Osteopathic Association (http://www.osteopathic.org/), 142 East Ontario Street, Chicago, IL 60611 (800-621-1773).
Ask for the brochures "What is a D.O.?" and "Osteopathic Medicine"
For more information about admission to a college of osteopathic medicine, contact the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (http://www.aacom.org/Pages/default.aspx), 5550 Friendship Blvd, Ste 310, Chevy Chase, MD 20815-7231 (301) 968-4100 Financial assistance is offered through several state osteopathic medical associations, the National Osteopathic Foundation, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Armed Forces and the Auxiliary to the AOA.