Medical Professions Resources Directory: Osteopathic Physician

How To Become a...

How To Become an Osteopathic Physician


Osteopathic medicine can prescribe medication, perform surgery, and obstetrics. Osteopathic Physicians believe in the emphasis that the body has the ability to heal itself, that is why an Osteopathic Physicians practice whole body approach to health care (bone doctor). Osteopathic Medicine was developed in 1874 by a doctor named Andrew Taylor Still. He was not satisfied with the 19th century medicine so he came up with the concept of medicine that was based on wellness and on the unity of all body parts which was the musculoskeletal system. He said the body could heal itself through proper nutrition and staying fit. Osteopathic Physicians now a days teach their patients how to take more responsibility for their own health and to choose healthier habits. Osteopathic Physicians watch and listen carefully and see the whole patient and not just the disease or injury.

D.O. is the abbreviation for Doctor of Osteopathy. Commonly known as Osteopathic Physicians, D.O.s practice a "whole person" approach to medicine. Instead of just treating symptoms, osteopathic physicians concentrate on treating the whole patient. They focus on preventive health care and believe that the body is self repairing, self sustaining, and self adjusting and that it is the physician's job to help the body heal itself. D.O.s receive extra raining in the musculoskeletal system which is the body's interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones that make up two-third of the body's mass.

Osteopathic Physicians understand how all the body's systems are interconnected and how each affects the others. They focus special attention to the musculoskeletal system which reflects and influences the conditions of all the other body systems. A routine part of the Osteopathic patient examination is a careful evaluation of these important structures. D.O.s can use their eyes and hands to identify structural problems and to support the body's natural tendency toward health and self-healing. D.O.s also use their ears - to listen to you and your health concerns. D.O.s help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that just don't fight illness, but help prevent it. 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.

Many D.O.s use Osteopathic Manipulation (OMM) with other traditional medical procedures to diagnose and treat injury and illness. This makes them a favorite among Olympic athletes, sports teams, and personal fitness enthusiasts who focus on diet, exercise and manipulation. Many of the professional sports teams use D.O.s as team doctors. Millions of Americans prefer this concerned and compassionate care, and have made D.O.s their doctors for life.

Some facts about D.O.s are: D.O.s practice in primary care areas like family practice, pediatrics and internal medicine. Most D.O.s practice in small towns and rural areas. D.O.s represent 6% of the total United States Physician population and *% of all military physicians, D.O.s represent 15% of physicians in small towns and rural areas, and teach year more than 100 million patients visits are made to D.O.s.

To become a D.O the applicant must graduate of one of the nation's osteopathic medical schools. Each school is accredited by the Bureau of Professional Education and the American Osteopathic Association. These accredited schools are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Post Secondary Education. The applicant normally would do four years of undergraduate degree at an osteopathic medical college, and complete specific science courses. Then the applicant must take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), then each applicant will interviewed to assess the student's interpersonal communication skills.

The osteopathic curriculum would involve four years of academic schooling to understand the concept of the osteopathic philosophy, to emphasize the preventive medicine and comprehensive patient care. The medical students will then learn how to use the osteopathic principles and techniques for diagnosis and treatment of disease throughout the curriculum. After osteopathic medical college the D.O.s do one year rotating internship to gain hands on experience in internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, family practice and pediatrics. This experience ensures that osteopathic physicians are first trained as primary care physicians. The internship provides every D.O. with the perspective to see and treat every patient as a whole person. Then most D.O.s will continue their graduate medical education with a residency consisting of two to six years of additional training. Residencies are available in the primary care disciplines - family practice, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics - as well as other specialties such as surgery, radiology, psychiatry and sports medicine.

All physicians (both M.D. and D.O.s) must pass a state medical board examination in order to obtain a license and enter practice. Each state board has it's own requirements for the physicians to practice in that state.

D.O.s are able to prescribe medication and perform surgery because they are fully trained and licensed. D.O.s and allopathic physicians (M.D.s) are the only two types of complete physicians in the United States. D.O.s practice in all branches of medicine from psychiatry to geriatrics to emergency medicine. However, D.O.s are trained to be generalists first, and specialists second. The majority are family orientated, primary care physicians. Many D.O.s practice in small towns where they often care for entire families and whole communities.

The difference between D.O.s and Chiropractors is that D.O.s have medical education that includes a four year undergraduate degree, a four year medical school degree, internship, and at least one hospital residency. Chiropractors do not prescribe medicine and their main focus is on the back and spinal cord.






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