Let’s start with the basics: Osteopathic (DO) medical schools teach a curriculum that is 100% the same as allopathic (MD) medical schools.
So a doctor is a doctor, regardless of MD or DO. The difference is that DO schools also teach something called “Osteopathic Manipulative Technique” or OMT. This is not the only thing that they tack on to the curriculum.
A fundamental belief of osteopathy is that the body wants to seek health; the DO’s job is to help the body heal. Another belief is that a correlation exists between illness and skeletal alignment. If your bones are out of balance, then this will show up in the body. Unfortunately, this is very hard to prove. And that’s the problem.
DO’s are also reputed to be more ‘holistic’ in their thinking, although my experience tells me that this varies among all doctors, regardless of degree.
Osteopathic or Allopathic? How to choose
So how do you determine if osteopathic medicine is a good fit for you? Here are some things to consider: Some osteopathic schools accept a wider range of MCAT and gpa than many allopathic schools. Some osteopathic schools accept a wider range of ages than some allopathic schools. Many students who embrace homeopathic and naturopathic principles prefer osteopathic training. For students who are geographically sensitive, an osteopathic school that is located in a desirable area may serve your needs best.
And here’s a “to do” list before you make any decisions:
- Visit an osteopathic school Talk to the students about their experiences.
- Shadow an osteopathic physician; ask him/her how s/he integrates osteopathic principles into diagnosis and treatment
- Go to the library and find books on the history of osteopathic medicine; then read them.
Finally, you may already know that 1) there are more allopathic medical schools than osteopathic; 2) many allopathic physicians do not revere osteopathic medical principles; 3) other countries may recognize a U.S. MD, but not a U.S. DO, and this may vary from country to country; 4) as a DO graduate, you are eligible to compete for MD residency and DO residency.
Hope this helps as you get closer to medical school yourself.