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 two types of complete physicians in the United States. The fact is, that both D.O.s and M.D.s are fully qualified physicians licensed to perform surgery and prescribe medication. 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. medical colleges typically have a four-year undergraduate degree with an emphasis on scientific 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 pediatrics, family practice, psychiatry. surgery or obstetrics-after completing a residency program (Typically two 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 health care facilities.
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 is the ways that D.O.s and M.D.s are different that bring an extra dimension to your family's health care.
More Than a Century of Unique Care
Osteopathic medicine is a unique form of American medical care that was developed in 1874 by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still. 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 recognized the body's ability to heal itself and stressed preventive medicine, eating properly and keeping fit.
Dr. Still pioneered the concept of "wellness" over 125 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.
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 health care to areas of greatest need:
Approximately 65% of all osteopathic physicians practice in primary care areas such as pediatrics, family practice, obstetrics/gynecology and internal medicine.
Many D.O.s fill a critical need for doctors by practicing in rural and medically underserved areas.
Today osteopathic physicians continue to be on the cutting edge of modern medicine. D.O.s are able to combine today's medical technology with their ears, to listen caringly to their patients; their eyes, to see their patients as a whole persons; and their hands, to diagnose and treat injury as well as illness.
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 health care.
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 ways that an injury or illness in one part of your body can affect another.
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 available medical procedures with OMT, D.O.s offer their patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.
About Osteopathic Medicine
You are more than just the sum of your body parts. That's why doctors of osteopathic medicine (D.O.s) practice a "whole person" approach to health care. Instead of just treating specific symptoms, osteopathic physicians concentrate on treating you as a whole.
Osteopathic physicians understand how all the body's systems are interconnected and how each one affects the others. They focus special attention on the musculoskeletal system, which reflects and influences the condition of all other body systems.
This system of bones and muscles makes up about two-thirds of the body's mass, and a routine part of the osteopathic patient examination is careful evaluation of these important structures. D.O.s know that the body's structure plays a critical role in its ability to function. They can use their eyes and hands to identify structural problems and to support the body's natural tendency toward health and self-healing. Osteopathic physicians also use their ears to listen to you and your health concerns. Doctors of osteopathic medicine help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don't just fight illness, but help prevent it. Millions of Americans prefer this concerned and compassionate care, and have made D.O.s their doctors for life.
To become an osteopathic physician, an individual must be a graduate of one of the nation's osteopathic medical schools. Each school is accredited by the Bureau of professional Education of the American Osteopathic Association. This accreditation is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Post- Secondary Education. Typically, applicants to osteopathic medical colleges have a four-year undergraduate degree, and complete specific science courses. Applicants must take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Osteopathic medical schools also require a personal interview to assess the student's interpersonal communication skills. The osteopathic curriculum involves four years of academic study. As a reflection of the osteopathic philosophy, the curriculum emphasizes preventive medicine and comprehensive patient care. Medical students learn to use osteopathic principles and techniques for diagnosis and treatment of disease throughout the curriculum. After completing osteopathic medical college, D.O.s serve a one-year rotating internship, gaining hands-on experience in internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, family practice, and pediatrics. This experience ensures that osteopathic physicians are first trained as primary care physicians. The internship provides every D.O. with the perspective to see and treat every patient as a whole person. Most D.O.s will continue their graduate medical education with a residency consisting of two to six years of additional training. Residencies are available in the primary care disciplines-family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics as well as other specialties such as surgery, radiology, psychiatry and sports medicine.
All Physicians (both D.O.s and M.D.s) must pass a state medical board examination in order to obtain a license and enter practice. each state board sets its own requirements for the physician to practice in that state.