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Osteopathic Medicine

There are two types of practicing physicians, those practicing Allopathic Medicine (MD) and those practicing Osteopathic Medicine (DO). You will encounter both MDs and DOs performing almost identical duties, but there are differences in medical philosophy and approach that are important for pre-med students to know. Read below to find out what DOs do and how their work differs from MDs.

What Do Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine Do?

DOs typically do the following:

  • Practice the entire scope of modern medicine, bringing a patient-centered, holistic, hands-on approach to diagnosing and treating illness and injury.
  • Can choose any specialty, prescribe drugs, perform surgeries, and practice medicine anywhere in the United States.
  • Bring the additional benefits of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) to diagnose and treat patients.
  • Work in partnership with patients to help them achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health education, injury prevention, and disease prevention.

Source: American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine

How does D.O. differ from MD?

Philosophy: According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), "DOs are trained to look at the whole person, which means they see each person as more than just a collection of body parts that may become injured or diseased...Thus, if there is a problem in one part of the body's structure, function in that area and in other areas may be affected." For DOs, it's not about treating the symptom(s) the patient came in with, but looking at the entire person and see how such symptom(s) can impact other areas and the patient's lifestyle.

Medical approaches and techniques: DO and MD training is nearly indistinguishable. However, in addition to the typical MD/DO training, DO medical students complete 200 hours of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), a hands-on care treatment that is used to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. According to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), DOs will move your muscles and joints using techniques to helps patients with asthma, sinus disorder, carpal tunnel, migraines, menstrual pain and more.

Source: American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine

Pre-D.O. Requirements

Prerequisites: Students must prepare the same way as if applying to allopathic medical schools. Please review all of the components involved in Preparing for a Career in the Health Professions. DO schools are looking for the same caliber of students that have high GPAs, MCAT scores, breadth of clinical experience and service work.

General Admissions Requirements from AACOM website

Application: AACOM Application Service (AACOMAS)

Applying to Osteopathic Medical College

Entrance Exam: MCAT

Osteopathic Medical College Information Book (includes an undergraduate timeline for the premedical student applying to osteopathic medical colleges)

D.O. Education

Degrees: Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)

Years of Study: 4 years. Additional training requires a 3- to 7-year residency program related to a specialty.

Overview of Osteopathic Medical Education and Accreditation

List of DO medical schools

More information

Last Updated: 8/25/16