There are two types of physicians qualified to be licensed for the unlimited practice of medicine in all 50 states: those holding MD degrees and those who have earned the DO (doctor of osteopathic medicine) degree.
DOs and MDs Are Alike in Many Ways
Osteopathic physicians perform surgery, deliver babies, and prescribe medicine in private practice, hospitals and clinics across the country. Whether family doctors or specialists, DOs use all the tools of modern medicine, and more. Like their MD colleagues, DOs:
- Typically have a four-year undergraduate degree with an emphasis on science courses before entering medical school
- Complete four years of basic medical education (medical school)
- Can choose to practice in a specialty area of medicine such as psychiatry, surgery or obstetrics
- Complete a residency program typically requiring two to six years of additional training
- Must pass comparable state licensing examinations and meet annual continuing education requirements to retain their license
- Practice in accredited and licensed hospitals and medical centers
DOs Bring Something Extra to Medicine
DOs practice a ‘whole person’ approach to medicine. Instead of just treating specific symptoms or illnesses, they regarding the mind, body and spirit as an integrated whole. They pay special attention to how the body’s nerves, muscles, bones and organs work together to influence health. DOs help their patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don’t just fight illness, but help prevent it.
Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT)
DOs 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 unique understanding of the ways that an injury or illness in one part of your body can affect another. It gives DOs a therapeutic and diagnostic advantage over those who do not receive this additional specialized training.
History of Osteopathic Medicine
Osteopathic medicine is a unique form of American medical care that was developed in 1874 by frontier doctor Andrew Taylor Still. Dr. Still was dissatisfied with the effectiveness of 19th century medicine and he believed that many of the medications of his day were useless or even harmful. Dr. Still was one of the first in his time to study the attributes of good health to better understand the process of disease.
Dr. Still’s philosophy of medicine is based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, the “father of medicine”. The philosophy focuses on the unity of all body parts. He identified the musculoskeletal system as a key element of health. He recognized the body’s ability to heal itself and stressed preventive medicine, eating properly and keeping fit.
Just as Dr. Still pioneered osteopathic medicine on the Missouri frontier in 1874, today osteopathic physicians serve as modern day medical pioneers. They continue the tradition of bringing healthcare to areas of greatest need. Over half of all osteopathic physicians practice in primary care areas, such as pediatrics, general practice obstetrics/gynecology and internal medicine. Plus, many DOs fill a critical need for family doctors by practicing in small towns and rural areas.
Today osteopathic physicians continue to be on the cutting edge of modern medicine. DOs are able to combine the latest medical technology with the tools of their ears to listen carefully to their patients; their eyes to see their patients as whole persons; and their hands, to diagnose and treat injury and illness.