What is the difference between an M.D. and D.O. doctor?

Osteopathic medicine is practiced by D.O.s in the United States. Osteopathic medicine was developed in 1874 by Dr. A.T. Still who stated, "Any variation from health has a cause, and the cause has a location. It is the business of the osteopathic physician to locate and remove it, doing away with the disease and getting healthy instead." He believed that many medications (at that time) were useless and even harmful. He identified the musculoskeletal system as a key component for good health.


More on the difference between D.O.s and M.D.s


Could you choose a D.O.? Take the questionnaire
Video 1: What is a D.O.?
Video 2: Exploring osteopathic medicine

Osteopathic medical school forum: discussion among D.O. physicians and students.

D.O. vs. M.D.

  • Both D.O.s and M.D.s typically have a four year undergraduate degree prior to medical training.
  • Both D.O.s and M.D.s have spent four-years in medical education. Both take the MCAT and are subject to a rigorous application process. Historically, D.O. schools are more open to the non-traditional candidate.
  • D.O.s, like M.D.s, choose to practice in a specialty area of medicine and complete a residency program ranging from 3-7 years. Some D.O.s complete the same residency programs as their M.D. counterparts.
  • M.D. students take the USMLE exam and D.O. students take the COMLEX exam. Both must pass a state licensing examination to practice medicine.
  • D.O.s perform surgery, deliver babies, treat patients, prescribe medications, and work in the same settings as M.D.s. D.O.s use the same tools, treatments, and technologies of medicine as M.D.s.
  • D.O.s receive extra training in the musculoskeletal system, which make up the muscles and bones of a person.
Who has higher MCAT scores? D.O. vs. M.D. applicants.

The main difference between the two types of physicians is that D.O.s have been specially trained to perform osteopthic manipulations on patients. They view the patient as a "total person" and focus on preventative care. They view the whole body rather than treat specific symptoms or illness. D.O.s use Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) in their practice. This involves the use of their hands to diagnose injury and illness and to encourage your body's natural 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.

"While America's 47,000 D.O.s account for only 5 percent of the country's physicians, they handle approximately 10 percent of all primary care visits. D.O.s also have a strong history of serving rural and underserved areas, often providing their unique brand of compassionate, patient-centered care to some of the most economically disadvantaged members of society."

M.D. vs. D.O. Schools and Associations

There are 20 schools of osteopathic medicine in the U.S., 126 accredited U.S. M.D.-granting medical schools , and 16 accredited Canadian M.D.-granting schools. Visit American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) for more information on D.O. schools and the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) for M.D. school information.

D.O. Forum

Meet D.O. MomMD members here. MomMD, despite the name, welcomes many D.O.s as members, and they already comprise an active component of MomMD membership.

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