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Discover the DO Difference
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The DO Difference - An Overview 

DOs are fully trained and licensed to prescribe medication, practice comprehensive medicine and surgery and incorporate osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) into the care they provide.

With OMT, osteopathic physicians use their hands to diagnose, treat and prevent illness and injury and encourage one’s body to heal itself. By combining all other appropriate medical options with OMT and a holistic approach to diagnosing and treating a patient, DOs offer the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.

 Osteopathic Specialties


Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM)/OMT

  • Osteopathic physicians also are specially trained in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM), sometimes referred to as OMT (osteopathic manipulative treatment). In addition to OMM being incorporated into their medical training, many osteopathic physicians pursue an additional year of residency training (a fellowship) in OMM. 
  • OMM stems from the osteopathic premise that all body systems, including the musculoskeletal system, are interdependent. A problem in one area can alter the function of another area of the body or, conversely, could be caused by a problem in another area of the body.
  • Osteopathic physicians use their hands to diagnose, treat and prevent illness or injury. DOs, using their hands, will move muscles and joints using techniques such as stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.
  • Although DOs and chiropractors are often confused, the difference in their education and training is quite significant. Osteopathic physicians are fully trained, fully licensed physicians who can prescribe medicine and perform surgery. They have graduated from an accredited medical school. Chiropractors have not. Although chiropractors perform manipulation of the spine and other areas of the body, they are not qualified to practice the art of medicine. Only DOs and MDs can do that.



Training - How is a DO Different from an MD?

  • A DO is a doctor of osteopathic medicine who completed four years of osteopathic medical school, along with three to five years of postgraduate training or residency (more for some specialties). 
  • Osteopathic physicians take an oath to preserve the health and life of their patients and to employ only recognized treatment methods consistent with good judgment and their skill and ability. 
  • DOs make up more than 12 percent of Missouri's physician workforce. 
  • By 2020, DOs are expected to encompass 20 percent of the physician workforce in the United States.
  • Both DOs and MDs are fully qualified, comprehensive physicians in the United States. Both have completed four years of medical school, a residency program, and can choose a specialty area of practice such as family medicine, pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry and many more. Both use scientifically-accepted methods of diagnosis and treatment of patients including the use of drugs and surgery.


DO Philosophy

  • Osteopathic physicians differ from MDs (allopathic physicians) in their philosophy and approach to the delivery of health care.
  • Osteopathic physicians use a holistic approach when diagnosing and treating a patient. This means they look at the whole body and not just a specific body part or a specific disease. 
  • An osteopathic physician's training emphasizes identifying causes of disease, not just the disease itself. DOs emphasize the idea that the body has an inherent ability to heal itself. If the patient takes care of their body, the disease is minimized and the healing ability of the body is optimized. Therefore, osteopathic physicians place great emphasis on healthy lifestyles and preventive medicine.




The Early Days of DOs

  • In 1892, Missouri became the birthplace of osteopathic medicine when Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, opened the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, the first osteopathic medical school in the world, now known as A.T. Still University - Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.
  • The medical school graduated the first-ever class of doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs), a group of 17 students, including five women.
  • On March 4, 1897, at the Missouri State Capitol, Governor Lon Stephens signed a bill into law legalizing practice rights of osteopathic physicians. The bill stated: “The people of Missouri were for giving the friends of osteopathy the protection of our state laws.” That same year, the Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons (MAOPS) was founded to preserve and advance the distinct philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine and to advocate for the profession.
  • In 1934, the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine opened its doors in Kirksville as the only museum in the United States that is solely dedicated to the national history of osteopathic medicine. The museum collects artifacts, photographs, documents, and books that trace the history of the profession throughout the United States and the world, preserves these unique resources and educates thousands of visitors each year about the unique legacy of A.T. Still and the osteopathic profession.
  • In the 1900s, DOs. endeavored to gain the same practice rights as medical doctors (MDs) in every state. Due to MAOPS and the American Osteopathic Association’s dedication to and advocacy for the osteopathic profession, in 1993, Governor Mel Carnahan signed Senate Bill 54 into law. The bill prohibited discrimination against osteopathic physicians. DOs around the state of Missouri and throughout the country now enjoy the same practice rights as their MD colleagues.

Present Day

  • In 1935, there were approximately 8,000 DOs in the United States. Today, there are more than 80,000.
  • There are 30 accredited osteopathic medical schools providing instruction at 42 locations in 28 states, with more than 22,000 students enrolled.
  • Osteopathic medical schools graduate more than 5,000 DOs each year in the United States.
  • Women account for nearly half of the total enrollment in osteopathic medical schools and more than 30 percent of all practicing DOs.
  • Missouri is home to three osteopathic medical schools: A.T. Still University - Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences - College of Osteopathic Medicine, Kansas City, and Joplin.

A Look Ahead

  • Osteopathic physicians are one of the fastest-growing segments of health care professionals in the United States. 
  • Approximately 60 percent of practicing DOs specialize in such primary care fields as family medicine, general internal medicine and pediatrics.
  • Many DOs fill a critical need by practicing in rural and other medically underserved areas. In Missouri, there are over 2,000 DOs practicing throughout the state.



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