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What is Osteopathic Medicine?

The difference between a D.O. and an M.D.

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.

Characteristics of a D.O.

  • D.O.s practice a “whole person” approach to medicine. Instead of just treating specific symptoms or illnesses, they regard your body as 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 the ways that an injury or illness in one part of your body can affect another.
  • Osteopathic manual 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.
  • Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine emphasize preparing students to be primary care physicians.

Want to D.O. more? Learn more about the profession from the AACOM website.

Similarities between D.O.s and M.D.s

  • 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 surgery, family practice or psychiatry – 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 exams.
  • D.O.s and M.D.s both practice in fully accredited and licensed health care facilities.

Want to learn more about what it means to be a D.O.?