D.O. or M.D.?

Pre-Medicine Studies at Truman State University

D.O. or M.D.?

  • applicants – typically have a four-year undergraduate degree with emphasis on science courses and require the MCAT exam
  • four years of medical schooling – two years traditional coursework and two years of clinical rotations
  • specialty residency programs such as psychiatry, surgery, obstetrics, sports medicine, etc. (2-6 yrs.)
  • both are medical doctors – Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) or Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
  • practice in fully accredited and licensed hospitals and medical centers
  • can perform surgery, child delivery, treat patients, and prescribe medications in hospitals and clinic settings

Many of the differences between allopathic and osteopathic medical programs are dissolving in the modern health-care environment. In the past, osteopathy’s insistence on preventative care and holistic healing distinguished it from allopathic training. The recent emphasis on primary care in M.D. programs is promoting even greater overlap between the two schools.  Even so, there are some important differences between the two degrees.




Emphasize education on primary care, preventative care and a holistic approach to patient care.  Treatment of the “whole person”Often noted for a narrower, “Western” approach, focusing on the treatment of symptoms
Clinical rotations are often conducted in community hospitals and local doctors’ officesClinical rotations are often conducted in teaching hospital affiliated with their medical school
Both D.O.s and M.D.s must pass comparable state licensing examinations, COMLEX or USMLEBoth D.O.s and M.D.s must pass comparable state licensing examinations, COMLEX or USMLE
Allopathic & osteopathic residency programs are now one system: the Single GME Accreditation System (ACGME). All programs will accept either COMLEX or USMLE scores.Allopathic & osteopathic residency programs are now one system: the Single GME Accreditation System (ACGME). All programs will accept either COMLEX or USMLE scores.
Receive extra training in the musculoskeletal system, which is comprised of the nerves, muscles, and bones, which usually gives D.O.s a better understanding of how an injury or illness in one part of the body can affect another part of the bodyn/a
Trained in osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT*)n/a

*OMT is a technique in which D.O.s use their hands to diagnose injury and illness, giving special attention to the joints, bones, muscles, and nerves. Manipulations improve circulation, which in turn, creates a normal nerve and blood supply, enabling the body to heal itself.   OMT is not chiropractic.  Chiropractic manipulations are typically focused on skeletal misalignment, not fully addressing the soft tissue components directly.  Thus, chiropractic manipulations are usually more aggressive and do not address the source of the problem, resulting in continual, repeated treatments.

One final factor to consider is that, while most D.O.s feel that their training is as comprehensive as M.D. training, prospective D.O.s should be prepared to be a part of the minority in the medical community. Because they comprise less than 10 percent of American medical doctors, osteopathic physicians must often explain—and sometimes defend—their educational background. When considering the weight of this issue, it may also be useful to consider where you plan to practice. In states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, osteopathic doctors comprise about 10 percent of all practicing physicians, whereas in many southern and Southwestern states like Arizona and Arkansas, they make up less than one percent of the physician population. If you are not comfortable being part of a misunderstood or minority group, osteopathy may not be a good fit for you.

Whether you chose to become an M.D. or a D.O., medical school is a long and challenging journey that will require stamina, commitment, and a lot of hard work. You will be most successful—not to mention happiest—in a program that fits with your personal philosophy and career goals. Before you apply to any medical school, allopathic or osteopathic, you should carefully consider where you can get the education you need to do the work you want to do.

Modified from the http://www.princetonreview.com/medical/research/articles/decide/DOissues.asp

-J Houser