Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference in a Doctor of Medicine or MD and a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine or DO?

In the United States, there is very little difference in the education, training, and internship requirements of both medical degrees. Both career paths begin with undergraduate studies, usually with an emphasis on biological or chemical science leading to a bachelor’s degree. Both require four years of medical school and then a residency program. The residency programs are completed in the same areas of specialty chosen by the physician such as primary care, surgery, gynecology, or pediatrics. The length of the residency program depends upon the chosen specialty but all range between two and six years. Both physicians must then pass state licensure requirements and exams and both must complete recertification exams and complete continuing education as long as they continue to practice to keep them up to date with current medical knowledge and practice. Both are board certified medical doctors who have the ability to prescribe drugs, perform surgery, and treat patients.

Osteopathic medicine adopts a holistic view of diagnosis, treatment, and wellness and medical doctors adopt a symptom based diagnosis for disease intervention. The difference is subtle and is one of philosophy, approach and interaction with the patient. The MD typically approaches patients from a disease model. The foundation for treatment methods is generally based upon symptoms and test results. The osteopathic physician approaches the patient from a holistic perspective. The “whole person” and their lifestyle is taken into account when evaluating symptoms. This holistic view includes a person’s diet, physical activity, and emotional status. The name “osteopathic” indicates treatment of disease that affect the bones therefore the musculoskeletal system is emphasized. This emphasis incorporates the concept of how an illness or injury in one part of the body affects other parts of the body. A result of this holistic approach is focus on the patient’s overall wellness. Treating the current disease is certainly important to DOs but another major consideration for them is evaluating factors for future risks.

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