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The difference between an M.D. and D.O.

Your doctor: The difference between an M.D. and D.O.

You know what an M.D. is, but have you ever been treated by a D.O.? While both degrees mean your doctor is a licensed physician, their training differs slightly, and each has a unique perspective on care.

While these doctors attended different medical schools, most of them practice at the same hospitals and clinics, and patients today are unlikely to notice major differences in treatment.

What is a D.O. doctor?

According to the American Osteopathic Association, Doctors of osteopathic medicine regard the body as an integrated whole rather than treating for specific symptoms only. In essence, allopathic medicine focuses more on disease treatment.

Although both M.D.s and D.O.s receive similar education, D.O. programs require 300 hours of osteopathic manipulation medicine (OMM) training focusing on the musculoskeletal system. D.O.s also often address conditions from both a medical and lifestyle perspective.

What is an M.D. doctor?

An M.D., or medical doctor, is the more commonly known kind of physician. Like D.O.s, they are trained through several years of both coursework and clinical practice.

Both M.D.s and D.O.s are licensed to work in all 50 states. Additionally, many complete residencies are at the same hospitals, and the physicians frequently become colleagues once their training is complete.

Physician specialties

Many D.O. education programs emphasize primary care, and graduates tend to enter specialties like family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology.

Although D.O.s all receive OMM training, they are licensed physicians, not chiropractors or other health practitioners.

Many M.D.s pursue primary care too, but they’re also frequently found in more specialized fields.

Should you choose a D.O. or an M.D.?

Physicians say there isn’t much practical difference between a D.O. and an M.D. in modern healthcare.

Most D.O.s no longer use OMM in their daily work, blurring the lines between their practices and M.D. practices. At the same time, plenty of M.D.s now integrate a whole-person perspective into their treatment.

If you’re seeking a new doctor, consider factors other than the degree. How is the doctor’s bedside manner? Do you feel comfortable sharing information with them?

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