Frequently Asked Questions
Many Americans have been going to a physician ever since they were born and perhaps have not been aware whether they were seeing a D.O. (osteopathic physician) or an M.D. (allopathic physician). You may not even be aware that there are two types of complete physicians in the United States.
Both D.O.s and M.D.s are fully qualified physicians licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery. D.O.s make up about 10-15% of the physician manpower base of the US.
Yes and no.
D.O.s and M.D.s are identical in most ways:
- Both typically have four-year undergraduate degrees with an emphasis on scientific courses.
- Both complete four years of basic medical education.
- After medical school, both obtain graduate medical education through such programs as internships and residencies. This training typically lasts three to six years and prepares the physician to practice a specialty such as rheumatology.
- Both can choose to practice in any specialty area of medicine-such as pediatrics, family practice, psychiatry, surgery or obstetrics.
- Both must pass the same or comparable examinations to obtain state licenses.
- Both practice in fully accredited and licensed health care facilities.
- Together, D.O.s and M.D.s enhance the state of health care available in America. All modern medical schools train caring physicians to recognize disease and utilize that knowledge in the context of caring for the whole person.
The difference is principally historical. Osteopathic medicine, as taught as additional curriculum in D.O. medical colleges, is a unique form of manual treatment that was started in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., D.O. Dr. Still was dissatisfied with the effectiveness of 19th century medicine and believed that many of the medications of his day were useless or even harmful. Dr. Still identified the musculoskeletal system as a key element of health and developed a valuable set of manipulative techniques applied to the musculoskeletal structure Since Still’s time, knowledge of these basic hands-on diagnostic and treatment techniques, has spread throughout the world, applied where appropriately skilled physicians deem beneficial. In some circumstances, Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) is now considered to constitute a specialty unto itself, practiced by physicians who focus on osteopathic principals and techniques and become exceptionally skilled. While manipulative treatment is not a substantial part of patient treatment in most rheumatology practices, there may be times when patients and their physicians may find aspects of this adjunctive therapy helpful.