Montana Osteopathic Medical Association
If you're like most people, you've been going to a doctor since you were born, and perhaps were not
aware whether you were seeing a D.O. (osteopathic physician) or an M.D. (allopathic physician).
You may not even be aware that these are the only two types of complete physicians in the United States.
The fact is, both D.O.s and M.D.s are complete physicians. They are both licensed by state and specialty
boards to perform surgery and prescribe medication. Is there any difference between these two types of
physicians? Yes. And no.
- What is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)? -
D.O.s and M.D.s are alike in many ways:
- Applicants to both D.O. and M.D. colleges typically
have a four-year undergraduate degree with an emphasis on science courses.
- Both D.O.s and M.D.s complete four years of basic medical education.
- After medical school, both D.O.s and M.D.s can choose to practice in a specialty area of medicine such as psychiatry, surgery,
or obstetrics. They both complete a residency program, which takes typically two to six
years of additional training.
- Both D.O.s and M.D.s must pass comparable state licensing
- D.O.s and M.D.s both practice in fully accredited and licensed hospitals and
- D.O.s comprise a separate, yet equal branch of American medical care.
Together D.O.s and M.D.s enhance the state of health care available in America.
- However, it's the ways that D.O.s and M.D.s are different that can bring an extra dimension to your
family's health care.
D.O.s bring something extra to medicine:
- Osteopathic schools
emphasize training students to be primary care physicians.
- D.O.s practice a "whole person"
approach to medicine. Instead of just treating specific symptoms or illnesses, they regard
your body as an integrated whole.
- Osteopathic physicians focus on preventive healthcare.
- D.O.s receive extra training in the musculoskeletal 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 better understanding of the ways that an injury or
illness in one part of your body can affect another. It gives D.O.s a therapeutic and
diagnostic advantage over those who do not receive additional specialized training.
- Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is incorporated in the training and practice
of osteopathic physicians. OMT allows physicians to use their hands to diagnose injury
and illness and to encourage your body's natural tendency toward good health. By combining
all other medical procedures with OMT, D.O.s offer their patients the most comprehensive
care available in medicine today.
100 Years of Unique Care
Osteopathic medicine is a unique form of American medical care that was developed
in 1874 by frontier doctor Andrew Taylor
Still. Dr. Still was dissatisfied with the effectiveness of 19th Century medicine. He
believed that many of the medications of his day were useless or even harmful. Dr. Still
was one of the first in his time to study the attributes of good health so that he could
better understand the process of disease. In response Dr. Still founded a philosophy of
medicine based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. The
philosophy focuses on the unity of all body parts. He identified the musculoskeletal
system as a key element of health. He recognized the body's ability to heal itself and
stressed preventive medicine, eating properly and keeping fit.
Dr. Still pioneered the
concept of "wellness" 100 years ago. In today's terms, personal health risks - such as
smoking, high blood pressure, excessive cholesterol levels, stress and other lifestyle
factors - are evaluated for each individual. In coordination with appropriate medical
treatment, the osteopathic physician acts as a teacher to help patients take more
responsibility for their own well-being and change unhealthy patterns.
is also a natural outgrowth of osteopathic practice, because of its focus on the
musculoskeletal system, osteopathic manipulative treatment, diet, exercise and fitness.
Many professional sports team physicians, Olympic physicians and personal sports medicine
physicians are D.O.s.
Just as Dr. Still pioneered osteopathic medicine on the Missouri
frontier in 1874, today osteopathic physicians serve as modern day medical pioneers.
They continue the tradition of bringing healthcare to areas of greatest need:
physicians continue to be on the cutting edge of modern medicine. D.O.s are able to combine
today's awesome medical technology with the tools of their ears, to listen carefully to their
patients; their eyes, to see their patients as whole persons; and their hands, to diagnose and
treat injury and illness.
- Over half of all osteopathic physicians practice in primary care areas, such as pediatrics,
general practice obstetrics/gynecology and internal medicine.
- Many D.O.s fill a critical
need for family doctors by practicing in small towns and rural areas.
Special thanks to the AOA for allowing us to use this information on our site.
Montana Osteopathic Medical Association
Executive Director, Don Grewell, DO
Web site designs by