The Osteopathic Option
Is It Right For You?
The Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree entitles a physician to all the same rights and privileges as an M.D. Furthermore, the D.O. education focuses on preventive health care, the role of the musculoskeletal system, and treating the patient as a whole person. Sound interesting? Consider the fact that 68% more D.O. graduates choose careers in primary care (82.9% vs. 49.4%).
This statistic reinforces the claims of osteopathic institutions that compared to traditional medical programs, their students receive more personal attention and are more likely to become primary care physicians. Osteopathic schools receive 3.5 applicants for each person admitted compared with 2.4 for allopathic schools. Even though acceptance into osteopathic schools is more competitive than acceptance into allopathic (MD) schools, osteopathic school admissions committees are more geared towards identifying other variables besides grades and test scores, a process intended to produce more empathic physicians.
D.O. vs. M.D.
Osteopathic medicine was pioneered in 1874 by Andrew Taylor. Taylor was a medical doctor who was interested in exploring health care options outside of traditional medicine. He proposed the theory that diseases were curable by manipulating the "deranged, displaced bones, nerves, muscles—removing all obstructions—thereby setting the machinery of life moving." D.O.s are very similar to M.D.s. Consider the following:
- Both typically start with a science-focused four-year college degree (B.S. or B.A.)
- Both undergo a four-year medical program
- Both complete a residency afterwards (osteopaths can enter traditional residencies)
- Both can specialize, although a lower percentage of osteopaths do
- Both take state licensing exams (D.O. students have the option of taking the allopathic USMLE.)
For a list of osteopathy schools, visit the AOA website.