Osteopathic physicians, also known as DOs, work in partnership with their patients; taking into consideration the impact that lifestyle has on the health of each individual. DOs, like MDs are fully qualified physicians licensed to practice the full scope of medicine in all 50 states. They practice in all types of environments and in all types of specialties, from family medicine to obstetrics, surgery, and aerospace medicine.
Both are licensed by state and specialty boards to perform surgery and write prescriptions. Applicants to both DO and MD colleges have a four-year undergraduate degree with an emphasis on science courses, and both complete four years of basic medical education.
In fact, both DOs and MDs:
- Can choose to practice in a specialty area of medicine, such as surgery or obstetrics
- Complete a residency program, which usually takes three to eight years of additional training
- Must pass comparable state licensing examinations
- Are equal in the eyes of the law
- Practice in fully accredited hospitals and medical centers
- Can order medical tests and procedures
- Must maintain a prescribed level of continuing education units (CEUs) to remain certified
Currently, more than 41,000 osteopathic physicians practice in the United States. Because osteopathic schools emphasize primary care training, more than half of all DOs practice in areas such as pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, and internal medicine. Each year, approximately 100 million patient visits are made to DOs.
According to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), osteopathic medicine is a complete system of health care with a philosophy that combines the needs of the patient with the current practice of medicine. DOs are trained to look at the whole person from their first days of medical school, which means they see each person as more than just a collection of organ systems and body parts that may become injured or diseased. This holistic approach to patient care means that osteopathic medical students learn how to integrate the patient into the health care process as a partner. They are trained to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds, and they get the opportunity to practice these skills in their classrooms and learning laboratories, frequently with standardized and simulated patients.
DOs often incorporate osteopathic manipulation treatment (OMT) into their practices, which allows the physicians to use their hands as a primary tool to diagnose and treat illness and injury. This form of manual medicine lets DOs examine the back and other parts of the body, such as joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles, for pain and restriction during motion that could signal an injury or impaired function.
For more information on DOs, visit the AOA website.