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What is a DO?

If you’re like most people, you’ve been going to physicians ever since you were born and perhaps were not aware whether some or all of them were osteopathic physicians, also known as DOs. You may not even be aware that there are two types of complete physicians in the United States—DOs and MDs.

The fact is that both DOs and MDs are fully qualified physicians licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery.

DOs and MDs are Alike in Many Ways:

  • Students entering both DO and MD medical colleges typically have already completed four-year bachelor’s degrees with an emphasis on scientific courses.
  • Both DOs and MDs complete four years of basic medical education.
  • After medical school, both DOs and MDs obtain graduate medical education through internships, residencies and fellowships. This training lasts three to eight years and prepares DOs and MDs to practice a specialty.
  • Both DOs and MDs can choose to practice in any specialty of medicine—such as pediatrics, family medicine, psychiatry, surgery or ophthalmology.
  • DOs and MDs must pass comparable examinations to obtain state licenses.
  • DOs and MDs both practice in accredited and licensed health care facilities.
  • Together, DOs and MDs enhance the state of health care available in the U.S .

DOs, however, belong to a separate yet equal branch of American medical care. It is the ways that DOs and MDs are different that can bring an extra dimension to your health care.

The Osteopathic Approach

For more than a century, osteopathic physicians have built a tradition of bringing health care to where it is needed most:

  • Approximately 60% of practicing osteopathic physicians practice in the primary care specialties of family medicine, general internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.
  • Many DOs fill a critical need for physicians by practicing in rural and other medically underserved communities.

In addition, these modern-day pioneers practice on the cutting edge of medicine. DOs combine today’s medical technology with their ears to listen caringly to their patients, with their eyes to see their patients as whole persons, and with their hands to diagnose and treat patients for injury and illness.

Osteopathic Medicine is a complete, holistic branch of medicine founded by an American physician, Andrew Taylor Still, practicing in Missouri in the late 1800s. In the United States, DOs (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine), like MDs, are granted the full scope of medical practice, including diagnosing all diseases as well as prescribing drugs and performing surgery. They attend four-year Osteopathic medical schools which require the same pre-requisites as conventional medical schools. They then complete internships and residencies in any medical specialty, often training side-by-side with MDs. While most Osteopathic Physicians practice general Family Medicine, there are many Osteopathic Pediatricians, OB-GYNs, Internists, Surgeons, Psychiatrists, Radiologists, etc. In addition to favoring primary care specialties, DOs often practice in rural areas.

All Osteopathic Physicians receive training in Osteopathic Philosophy and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM), which is a holistic approach to patient care involving hands-on diagnosis and treatment using a gentle form of medical bodywork. Some Osteopathic Physicians specialize exclusively in this work and can become Board Certified in OMM (also referred to as Neuro-Musculoskeletal Medicine). Many of these physicians pursue training in Osteopathy in the Cranial Field, which addresses more subtle inherent motions in the body. MDs and Dentists can also study Osteopathy, particularly the Cranial Field, often via post-graduate continuing medical education courses. The physicians in this office specialize in OMM and are trained in the Cranial Field.

OMM encompasses a wide range of techniques addressing problems in joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and fascia that may cause pain or interfere with nervous, circulatory and internal organ function. Osteopathy depends on detailed anatomical knowledge, a highly trained sense of touch and the physician’s diagnostic skill and experience.

As the oldest form of continuously practiced modern manual therapy originating from the United States, Osteopathy has had great influence. There are many styles of bodywork that are derived from it, often practiced by those with more limited training. However, complex cases and particularly those with multiple medical problems require the expertise of Osteopathically-trained, unlimited-licensed physicians.

Osteopathic Medicine is the only branch of medicine that combines an unlimited scope of practice, full medical training and a holistic approach from the beginning of the educational process.

The Osteopathic Approach – reprinted with permission from Dr. Daniel A. Shadoan, DO

2056 Sul Ross Street, Houston, TX, 77098 United States
Phone: (713) 527-8499
Fax: (713) 588-8157

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