What’s the Difference between a DO and a MD?

person trying to decide between DO and MD

Considering a career in the healthcare field? Have you thought about pursuing your professional goals in which you are the physician? If so, it is important to know the difference between traditional (allopathic) medical school and osteopathic medical school.

Both options have rigorous application requirements including an impressive GPA, an MCAT score that is competitive and letters of recommendation from college advisors and physicians that may have seen you in action. Students that possess these requirements are also expected to adhere to high levels of professionalism, display humanistic traits, communicate well and be ready to make some personal sacrifices during your training (and for several years after) in order to be granted acceptance into a medical school.

You may have noticed some doctors have an MD after their name while others have a DO. What’s the difference? Essentially they are the same with one major difference: the osteopathic medical schools provide an additional 500 to 1000 hours of training on using your hands to feel tissues and diagnose problems within the patient’s musculoskeletal system. These hours of training are an additional tool that physicians can use to diagnose and treat patient’s complaints and are incorporated into the curriculum so that there is no additional time spent at osteopathic medical schools compared to allopathic ones.

Additionally, osteopathic medical schools provide an emphasis on a “holistic” approach to patient care in which they attempt to factor in the patient’s cultural background, socioeconomic status and personal beliefs about medical diagnosis and care. This approach encompasses a look into a connection between mind-body-spirit that is factored into the training of osteopathic medical students. Due to this emphasis, historically, osteopathic medical schools were established to help counteract a primary care shortage in rural areas across the US and currently most osteopathic schools still hold a preference for students willing to pursue some form of primary care service. However, this is not a requirement and it is understood that students may not be familiar with their career choices at the time of their medical school decision making.

Osteopathic doctors (or “DO’s” as they are named, short for Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), are currently fully licensed to practice medicine, just like their MD counterparts, in all 50 states of the US. Similarly, DO’s have the same residency positions available, job offers and expectations and insurance reimbursement rates as MD’s. More recently, even the national board exams for both schools of thought have also been equalized in order to standardize medical training across the US.

No matter which path you choose, becoming a physician is a rewarding profession with the power to help many people.