Types of PCPs

DO vs. MD

If you are like most people, you probably don’t know the difference between a medical doctor, MD, and an osteopathic doctor, DO.

DOs and MDs are alike in many ways:

  • Applicants to both DO and MD colleges typically have a four-year undergraduate degree with an emphasis on science courses.
  • Both DOs and MDs complete four years of basic medical education.
  • After medical school, both DOs and MDs can choose to practice in a specialty area of medicine—such as psychiatry, surgery, obstetrics, or sports medicine—after completing a residency program (typically two to six years of additional training).
  • Both DOs and MDs must pass comparable state licensing examinations.
  • DOs and MDs both practice in fully accredited and licensed hospitals and medical centers.
  • Both are medical doctors; MD is specifically Doctor of Medicine and DO is Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.

What Makes DOs Different?

  • DOs can perform surgery, child delivery, treat patients, and prescribe medications in hospitals and clinic settings.
  • DOs look at the “total person.” Osteopathic physicians focus on preventive care. Instead of just treating specific symptoms or illnesses, they look at the whole body.
  • DOs receive extra training in the musculoskeletal system, which is comprised of the nerves, muscles, and bones. This training gives DOs a better understanding of how an injury or illness in one part of the body can affect another part of the body; therefore, DOs have a therapeutic and diagnostic advantage.
  • DOs use what is called osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT). OMT is a technique in which the DOs use their hands to diagnose injury and illness, giving special attention to the joints, bones, muscles, and nerves. Manipulations improve circulation, which in turn, creates a normal nerve and blood supply, enabling the body to heal itself.
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