Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)

What is a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO)?

A doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) is a physician licensed to practice medicine, perform surgery, and prescribe medication. Like MDs, DOs complete four years of medical school and can choose to practice in any specialty of medicine. However, osteopathic physicians receive an additional 300 - 500 hours in the study of the body's musculoskeletal system.

DOs and MDs are alike in many ways.

  • Applicants to both DO and MD medical colleges typically have four-year undergraduate degrees with an emphasis on scientific courses.
  • Both DOs and MDs complete four years of basic medical education.
  • After medical school, both DOs and MDs obtain graduate medical education through such programs as internships and residencies. This training typically lasts three to six years and prepares DOs and MDs to practice a specialty.
  • Both DOs and MDs can choose to practice in any specialty area of medicine-such as pediatrics, family practice, psychiatry, surgery or obstetrics.
  • DOs and MDs must pass comparable examinations to obtain state licenses.
  • DOs and MDs both practice in fully accredited and licensed health care facilities.

DOs additional training in the body's musculoskeletal system can bring an extra dimension to your health care.

  • DOs practice a "whole person" approach to medicine. They regard your body as an integrated whole.
  • After DOs 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. Although they are trained in OMT, not all DOs use it in their practice.

Like MDs, osteopathic physicians are licensed at the state level. Osteopathic physicians who wish to specialize may become "board certified" (in much the same manner as MDs) by completing a two- to six-year residency within the specialty area and passing the board certification exams. DOs practice in all specialties of medicine, ranging from emergency medicine and cardiovascular surgery to psychiatry and geriatrics. A majority of osteopathic doctors use many of the medical and surgical treatments that are used by other medical doctors.

Together, DOs and MDs enhance the state of health care available in America.

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American Osteopathic Association