If you're like many people, you've been going to a physician 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 prescribe medication and perform surgery. Is there any difference between these two kinds of physicians? 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 four-year undergraduate degrees 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 obtain graduate medical education through such programs as internships and residencies. This training typically lasts three to six years and prepares D.O.s and M.D.s to practice a specialty.
- Both D.O.s and M.D.s can choose to practice in any specialty area of medicine-such as pediatrics, family practice, psychiatry, anesthesia, surgery or obstetrics.
- D.O.s and M.D.s must pass comparable examinations to obtain state licenses.
- D.O.s and M.D.s both practice in fully accredited and licensed health care facilities.
- Together, D.O.s and M.D.s enhance the state of health care available in America.
- Osteopathic medical schools emphasize training students to be complete 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 your body mass. This training provides osteopathic physicians with a better understanding of the ways that an illness or injury in one part of your body can affect another.
- Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is incorporated into the training and practice of osteopathic physicians. With OMT, osteopathic physicians use their hands to diagnose illness and injury and to encourage your body's natural tendency toward good health. By combining all other available medical options with OMT, D.O.s offer their patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.
If you are not seeing a D.O. and would like help finding one, you can call (866) FIND-A-DO or visit the AOA's website.