Facts about DOs to clear up misconceptions out there
by March Madness (no login)

Excerpts were taken from Osteopathic.com For the full info go there.

In the past, I have been asked many questions about osteopathic medicine since I had experience interviewing with osteopathic medical schools, and was accepted to a few (I have since also been accepted to an MD school). I, like many of you out there, used to know very little about the DO degree. I knew they were complete practice doctors, but I used to think they were doctors that specialized in bones (osteo = bone, path = disease). It is definitely the "best kept secret" in medicine for aspiring physicians like us.

Maybe this information may clear up some misinformation myself or others may have given about the DO degree. Of course, this degree may not be for the thin skinned person who would not want to explain or justify himself/herself occasionally. But, if your goal is to be a physician, you tend to have a more holistic approach in mind, and you don't care about the letters after your name, then this may a great extra opportunity (of course its too late for fall 99). They may see something about you that other medical schools overlooked. But, believe me, it is hard to get in. The first time I applied, I received a few interviews at MD schools, and one wait-list. I received NO interviews at the DO schools, even though I applied to 10 or more. I am not sure to this day why, but oh well, thats the crazy admissions game.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about DOs

Q1: What is osteopathic medicine?

A1: There are presently two complete systems of medicine utilizing all available medical treatments (i.e., medicine, surgery, etc.). They are allopathic medicine which grants the M.D. (Medical Doctor) degree and osteopathic medicine which grants the D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine ) degree. Both are licensed in all 50 states, both serve in all branches of military service, and both are equal in the eyes of the law. Both have their own accreditation organizations: the American Medical Association for allopathic medicine and the American Osteopathic Association for osteopathic medicine.


Q2: What is an osteopathic physician (D.O.), and are they real doctors?

A2: Osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) can prescribe all forms of medication, perform all manners of surgery, and pursue all medical specialties. They have had identical training as M.D.s (with additional training in the musculoskeletal system) and work alongside their M.D. colleagues in most hospitals. In the eyes of the law, D.O.s and M.D.s are equal.

Q3: I thought osteopathic medicine was a drugless form of healing. Is that true?

A3: No. Although A.T Still originally intended for osteopathy to be a drugless form of healing, we must keep in mind that the drugs of his time were incredibly dangerous. For example, one drug commonly prescribed by M.D.s during Still's day was Calomel, a mercury-based drug which we know now would be incredibly toxic. During the early twentieth century, pharmaceuticals were being scientifically tested and were much safer and more effective. Only then did D.O.s begin to incorporate drugs into their practice.

Furthermore, for D.O.s to have remained in a position of providing "drugless healing" would have required them to resist over one-hundred years of medical evolution. Osteopathy was founded to be a complete system of healthcare. And to do so, it must be dynamic and thus ever-changing in the face of new scientific findings.

Q4: What is the difference between osteopathy and osteopathic medicine, and between an osteopath and osteopathic physician?

A4: It is easy to be confused concerning the many "osteo" words. The difference is quite simple. The profession was discovered in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Stil1, M.D. as "osteopathy." As mentioned above, this is a combination of the words "bone" and "suffer." Literally meaning, "bone suffering." At the time of its founding, the system did not include medical pharmacology so only manual manipulative "medicine" was practiced by its students. However, over time as drugs became better researched and safer to use (early 1900s), osteopathy began incorporating medications and surgery into their treatment. With the osteopathic profession now offering all medical treatment modalities in additional to osteopathic manipulation, the American Osteopathic Association (the legislating body of osteopathic medicine) decided in 1960 to change the name of the profession to "osteopathic medicine" and the name of the practitioners from "osteopath" to "osteopathic physician."

Outside the USA, the terms "osteopath" and "osteopathy" are used to describe D.O.S trained there. Non-North American DOs are only instructed manipulative medicine (osteopathic manipulation) and are NOT trained in pharmacology, surgery, etc. Their practice is limited to osteopathic manipulation. (Similar to chiropractors in the US, but not the same) Unfortunately, this adds some confusion to the degree.

Q5: Why was osteopathic medicine so heavily opposed during its early years?

A5: Much of the early years of osteopathic medicine is marked by staunch opposition by the allopathic (M.D.) community. There are many reasons for this opposition. First and foremost, osteopathy initially rejected the hallmark of allopathic treatment. That is, the use of medications. Allopathic practitioners, believing medication to be the only legitimate form of therapy, found osteopathy to be an attack on their livelihood. Worse yet, these osteopathic practitioners were actually succeeding. Thus, osteopathy became competition that needed to be annihilated.

Second, Andrew Taylor Still, M.D. was an early supporter of equal rights for women and minorities. A fascinating example of the dichotomy between the early allopathic and osteopathic perspectives on the acceptance and employment of women can be seen in an event that occurred in 1946. During this year, a large city placed the following advertisement in the New York Herald Tribune: "Doctors Wanted: Women Need Not Apply." In a response to this discrimination, an article in the Forum of Osteopathy appeared entitled: "Doctors Wanted: Women Urged to Apply." Yet, Dr. Still did not stop at the mere acceptance of women as students, but he employed them as instructors as well. Jenette Bolles,D.O. a graduate of the University of Kansas, was hired to teach anatomy during the school's second year of classes. She later went on to serve as vice president of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), osteopathic medicine's equivalent to the American Medical Association. Dr. Still also instituted a practice of keeping a women doctor on staff at the school's hospital to see those women patients who were uncomfortable sharing their gynecological problems with male doctors (For more information on this subject, see Georgia Walter's 1994 book Women and Osteopathic Medicine: Historical Perspectives). Thus, Dr. Still challenged the status quo of medicine by his willingness to teach women and minorities to become physicians. And again, these individuals that allopathic medicine considered inferior were actually succeeding.

Today, there is no organized opposition of osteopathic medicine. M.D.s and D.O.s work together as colleagues and neither are barred from each other's institutions. Over the years, the two professions have grown closer together. The D.O.s have grown closer to M.D.s through their presence in highly specialized medical fields. And the M.D.s have grown closer to D.O.s through their recent push toward primary care and more holistic healing.

Q6: What must one do to become an osteopathic physician?

A6: As an undergraduate: The entrance requirements are similar to those required by the allopathic medical schools. The medical education itself involves the same courseware, although D.O.s have additional courses in the musculoskeletal system (via courses such as "osteopathic principles and practice"). The systems of allopathic and osteopathic medicine are so similar, in fact, that it is not unusual to find D.O.s on the teaching staffs of allopathic medical schools, and M.D.s on the staffs of osteopathic medical schools.

The requirements for both osteopathic and allopathic programs:

Allopathic (M.D.) Osteopathic (D.O.)
Pre-Medical Biology (8 Hours)
Physics (8 Hours)
Inorganic Chemistry (8 hours)
Organic Chemistry (8 Hours)
(Passage of the MCAT) Biology (8 Hours)
Physics (8 Hours)
Inorganic Chemistry (8 hours)
Organic Chemistry (8 Hours)
(Passage of the MCAT)
Medical School Four Years Four Years
(Includes additional training in OMT)
Internship Specialty Dependent
Three tracks are available:
Medicine, Surgery or a
Transitional Year Specialty Dependent
The AOA suggests an osteopathic Rotating Year in a AOA approved site
(either MD or DO site)
Residency Specialty Dependent
Three (family practice) to seven years (neurosurgery) Specialty Dependent
Three (family practice) to seven years (neurosurgery)
Licensing Requirements Vary by State
Call the AMA for more information Requirements Vary by State
Call the AOA for more information



Q7: What type of career opportunities exist for me as a D.O.?

A7: The sky is the limit. Osteopathic physicians occupy all medical specialties from pediatrics to neurosurgery. They work in solo practices in small towns, and they work in large academic medical institutions. Although, in keeping with the holistic philosophy of osteopathic medicine, most D.O.s do choose to practice in primary care (family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, etc.).

Furthermore, at the time of this writing the surgeon general of the United States Army is a D.O. (General Ronald Blanck, D.O.). In addition, in the 1996 summer Olympic games, the director of the emergency medical services was a D.O. Also, because of a D.O.s additional training in the musculoskeletal system, D.O.s make excellent physicians in a field of medicine they helped found: sports medicine. It is not unusual to find a D.O. as the physician for professional sports teams. (In addition, the head of ER at Cook County hospital is a DO - MM)

Q8: Is osteopathic medicine "alternative medicine"

A8: No. I think Bob Jones, author of the book The Difference a D.O. Makes, summed it up well when he said, "osteopathic medicine is something extra, not something else." In general, the treatments a D.O. and M.D. offer are identical. However, in some cases, such as pneumonia, osteopathic physicians can offer (in addition to medication) osteopathic manipulation of the ribcage to encourage drainage of the fluid in the lungs.

Q9: What is Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine?

A9: Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) is a science and art that combines osteopathic philosophy, palpatory diagnostic skills, and Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT). OMT is defined as "the therapeutic application of manually guided forces by an osteopathic physician to improve physiologic function and/or support homeostasis." When properly applied, it can be curative for primary muscular and skeletal pain, and can decrease symptoms (and possibly decrease the need for medications) in systemic diseases. For more information on OMT, click here to visit the American Osteopathic Association's website on OMT. (Clinical examples are included on this website).

Q10: Where can I find more information?

A10: For additional information, you may contact the American Osteopathic Association by writing:


American Osteopathic Association
142 E. Ontario St.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 280-5800 or (800) 621-1773

Also, there are several books on osteopathic history. The best book to begin with would be Norman Gevitz's The D.O.'s. This book and other books on osteopathic history may be purchased at many of the bookstores serving osteopathic medical schools. The Matthews KCOM (Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine) Bookstore maintains a nice selection of such books. You may request a book listing by writing or calling:


Matthews KCOM Bookstore
The Faculty/Student Education Center
800 West Jefferson
Kirksville, MO 63501
(816) 665-1251


Posted on Jun 15, 1999, 1:40 PM
from IP address 171.215.12.140