Osteopathic Medicine – What is a DO?

Osteopathic Medicine was developed in the late 1800s by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still.  He practiced in the Midwest during the pre-antibiotic era.  Epidemics including tuberculosis, diphtheria, and smallpox were common, but effective medical therapies were extremely limited. After losing three of his children to spinal meningitis, he began searching for more effective ways to prevent illness and treat disease.  A devoted student of anatomy, Dr. Still developed a system of medicine that integrates the manipulation of the musculoskeletal system.  Manipulation was designed to improve both blood and lymphatic circulation and to correct altered body mechanics.  He found that Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) improved the body’s inherent healing ability.  Osteopathic Medicine embodies the principles that a person is more than the sum of his parts and that form influences function.

Today, Osteopathic Physicians (Doctors of Osteopathy or DOs) are fully qualified physicians licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery.  Like Medical Doctors (MDs), DOs complete an undergraduate degree before completing a four year medical degree.  DOs receive additional training during medical school in the principles and practice of OMT.  This training is designed to provide a better understanding of the ways that an illness or injury in one part of the body can potentially affect the rest of the system.  OMT further enables DOs to use their hands in making diagnoses and in encouraging the body’s natural tendency toward health and healing.  Osteopathic principles lead many physicians toward careers in primary care.

After medical school, DOs, like their MD colleagues, obtain graduate medical education through internships, residencies and fellowships and can choose to practice in any specialty of medicine, including family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, neurology, radiology, and surgery.  DOs and MDs must pass the same examination to obtain board certification in any specialty.

DOs strive to combine evidence-based medical therapies with OMT to offer their patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.

For more information, please visit www.aacom.org 

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