What is a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy)?

If you're like most people, you've been going to physicians ever since you were born and perhaps were not aware whether some or all of them were osteopathic physicians, also known as D.O.s. You may not even be aware that there are two types of complete physicians in the United States—D.O.s and M.D.s.

The fact is that both D.O.s and M.D.s are fully qualified physicians licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery.

D.O.s and M.D.s are Alike in Many Ways:

  • Students entering both D.O. and M.D. medical colleges typically have already completed four-year bachelor's 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 internships, residencies and fellowships. This training lasts three to eight 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 of medicine—such as pediatrics, family medicine, psychiatry, surgery or ophthalmology.
  • 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 accredited and licensed health care facilities.

Together, D.O.s and M.D.s enhance the state of health care available in the U.S. D.O.s, however, belong to a separate yet equal branch of American medical care. It is the ways that D.O.s and M.D.s are different that can bring an extra dimension to your health care.

The Osteopathic Approach

D.O.s combine today's medical technology with their ears to listen caringly to their patients, with their eyes to see their patients as whole persons, and with their hands to diagnose and treat patients for injury and illness.

The D.O. physician views the patient as a "total person" and focuses on preventative care. They view the whole body rather than treat specific symptoms or illness.  This involves the use of their hands to diagnose injury and illness and to encourage your body's ability to heal. Osteopathic medicine is a fast-growing segment of the United States healthcare field.

The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) states that:
"Because of this whole-person approach to medicine, approximately 60 percent of all D.O.s choose to practice in the primary care disciplines of family practice, general internal medicine and pediatrics. Approximately 40 percent of all D.O.s go on to specialize in a wide range of practice areas. If the medical specialty exists, you will find D.O.s there."

- American Osteopathic Association (www.osteopathic.org)

- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)