What is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)?

If you’re like most people, you’ve been going to a doctor since you were born and perhaps didn’t know if you were seeing a DO (osteopathic physician) or an MD (allopathic physician). You may not even be aware that there are two types of physicians in the United States.

DOs and MDs are alike in many ways:

  • Both DOs and MDs are fully qualified physicians licensed to perform surgery and prescribe medication.
  • Applicants to both DO and MD medical colleges typically have a four-year undergraduate degree with an emphasis on scientific courses.
  • Both DOs and MDs complete four years of basic medical education.
  • After medical school, both DOs and MDs usually choose to practice in a specialty area of medicine, such as surgery, family practice or psychiatry, and complete a residency program (typically two to six years of additional training).
  • Both DOs and MDs must pass comparable state licensing exams.
  • DOs and MDs both practice in fully accredited and licensed health care facilities.

DOs bring something extra to medicine:

  • Osteopathic medical schools emphasize training students to be primary care physicians.
  • DOs receive extra training in the musculolskeletal system  your body’s interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones that make up two-thirds of its body mass. This training provides osteopathic physicians with a clear understanding of the ways that an injury or illness in one part of your body can affect another.
  • Some osteopathic physicians perform OMM, or osteopathic manual manipulation, which consists of gently realigning the body by using a wide range of gentle techniques to help relieve pain and structural abnormalities.