Information provided by the AOA
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 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 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 psychiatry, surgery or obstetrics — after completing a residency program which requires an additional two to six years of 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.
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 assess the overall health of their patients including home and work environments.
- 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 the 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 other medical procedures with OMT, D.O.s offer their patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.