Physicians in America have one of two degrees, either M.D. (Medical Doctor) or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). There are some differences and some similarities, but both are legal and qualified to practice in any specialty area. Allopathic (M.D.) and osteopathic (D.O.) physicians complete similar pre-professional and professional education. Both must obtain bachelor’s degrees prior to completing four years of medical school. The most distinct difference is that osteopaths receive additional education in osteopathic principles and practice. During this course D.O’s learn to perform osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), which gives an additional tool to aid in diagnosis. OMT also aids in treating musculoskeletal dysfunctions that may affect other body systems. The four key tenets of osteopathic medicine form the foundation of osteopathic philosophy. This philosophy focuses on the body as a whole and emphasizes searching for the cause of the disease, as opposed to treating and masking symptoms. The tenets of the philosophy are listed below.
-The body is a unit. The person is a unit of mind, body, and soul.
-The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
-Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
-Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function. (www.msha.com. Mountain States Medical Group, J. Nathan Elliott, D.O.)
Perhaps the most underrepresented fact is that the field of osteopathic education has never experienced a plateau or a cessation of growth. Many articles are being written about the current resurgence of growth of medical schools. Allopathic medical schools experienced a cessation of growth in the 1970’s and are growing at an enormous rate right now. But osteopathic medical schools have continued to grow at a steady rate. The mission of many new medical schools is to fill the shortage of primary care physicians. Ironically, over 60% of osteopathic physicians practice in primary care, which places their discipline at the gateway of medicine. Physicians regardless of degree, complete similar education, training, and certification processes to enable patients to receive comprehensive and high quality care.