Doing an O.D. program offers students who aspire to becoming doctors but do not possess GPA and MCAT scores sufficient for MD programs an alternative path; however, residency spots in both types of schools remain as competitive as for any medical student.
Now that the two graduate medical education accreditation councils have joined forces, MD or DO physicians are free to practice residency programs across any specialty.
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What is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine?
Doctors of Osteopathy (DOs), medical professionals that use holistic approaches to treat patients, are fully-qualified physicians that may choose from among several specializations including primary care and obstetrics/gynecology. DOs are trained to collaborate closely with their patients in regard to lifestyle factors that could contribute to disease prevention and health promotion.
DO medicine’s core principle is rooted in understanding how the mind and body are inextricably intertwined, taking an holistic approach that considers emotional, psychological, and physical needs of patients. DOs frequently work with underserved populations in rural or urban settings where accessing treatment options may be more challenging.
DO students typically spend 300 to 500 hours during medical school learning hands-on manual medicine and how to assess musculoskeletal system (known as Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment or OMT). This training helps a DO understand how various parts of your body interact, which allows them to diagnose and treat issues more effectively without resorting to medication.
DO students learn that their bodies contain an inherent ability to heal themselves, so DOs counsel patients against using medications and instead focus on natural methods like eating healthily, exercising regularly, sleeping enough hours each night and maintaining positive mental attitudes.
MD and DO graduates both must complete extensive residency training before they can practice in their chosen specialty field, although DO programs differ slightly from MD ones. Historically, DOs had their own individual accreditation systems; now DOs participate in the main Residency Match like MD students do.
As with MD students, DOs in residency undergo intensive medical and surgical training similar to that received by MD students. To pass their licensing exams and become board-certified, DOs must fulfill all of the same requirements as MDs – such as passing the United States Medical Licensure Examination.
Differences Between the Two Degrees
Students considering a career in medicine often wonder which degree would best serve them when considering MD or DO degrees. Both degrees lead to US medical licensure; however, there may be certain distinctions in residency opportunities and salary between them.
MD physicians typically specialize in areas like cardiology, neurology and ophthalmology and are more likely to work in urban areas. DO physicians, in contrast, tend to focus on primary care and work more in rural communities – while being less likely to specialize in highly specialized areas like urology.
As such, there is an approximately 9:1 ratio between MDs and DOs in the United States. Although each type is uniquely qualified to treat patients in this country.
MD and DO students alike can gain valuable clinical experience by shadowing physicians. This practice is well-recognized as it helps strengthen applications to medical school; applicants are advised to look for shadowing opportunities within their local communities with physicians of interest; shadowing can also make candidates stand out during interviews.
To gain admission into medical programs, both MD and DO students require both an exceptional GPA and MCAT score. Achieving this will be particularly vital as most premed programs separate GPA into science GPA and normalized GPA; students whose science or normalized GPAs fall below this benchmark may need additional courses in order to raise them or they can choose DO programs with lower minimum requirements.
Both MD and DO students use the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) to apply to residency programs of their choice. At the 2022 NRMP Main Residency Match – marking only the third time that all MD and DO students participated together – 92.9 percent of MD seniors matched into their desired specialty while match rates for DO seniors were slightly lower at 91.3 percent.
On average, MD graduates tend to enjoy a slight edge in the job market over DO graduates as employers recognize them as higher academic achievers. As DO graduates become more visible to the general public this trend should reverse itself.
How to Become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
If you’re considering becoming a doctor, there are numerous paths available to you. Both pursuing an MD or DO degree offer opportunities for career advancement and patient care – the main difference being your philosophy on healing the body itself. Most physicians practicing today are MDs but more and more students are opting to go for DO degrees instead.
No matter your chosen medical specialization – MD or DO – the requirements to become qualified physicians in the US remain similar. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree with all required prerequisites; we advise majoring in science so as to be exposed to human anatomy and physiology classes, chemistry classes, as well as general and organic physics courses. Furthermore, success on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) will help ensure acceptance into medical school.
Medical school for both MDs and DOs lasts four years and includes both medical science courses and clinical rotations, with DOs devoting more time to learning osteopathic manipulation and treatment (OMT) than is typical of MDs; OMT training covers at least 200 hours during Osteopathic medical school; this provides them with techniques they can use to address back pain, tight muscles and other musculoskeletal problems.
Once they graduate medical school, MDs and DOs must go on to residency training in their chosen specialty – this may take from three to eight years depending on the discipline chosen. Once complete, residents must pass both USMLE Step 2 CK and 3 exams in order to become licensed US practitioners.
Current statistics in the US reveal 37 accredited DO medical schools and more than 121,000 active DOs in practice across all medical specialties – internal medicine, family practice, gynecology surgery pediatrics etc. Both MDs and DOs may specialize in any area such as internal medicine family practice gynecology surgery pediatrics etc.
What Are the Requirements to Become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
The requirements to become a DO vary slightly from those needed to become an MD, though both types of physicians undergo similar training and take similar licensing exams. DOs place greater emphasis on treating symptoms associated with muscular-skeletal systems like back pain, stiff joints, build-up of edema and neck pain with hands-on methods; most DOs specialize in primary care fields like family medicine, internal medicine or pediatrics.
To be accepted into an osteopathic medical school, one must earn a four-year bachelor’s degree and pass the Medical College Admission Test. Many colleges also offer undergraduate/medical programs where you can simultaneously earn your degree while working toward your MCAT score and program enrollment. Whichever route you take, having both an excellent GPA and MCAT score will increase your odds of acceptance into osteopathic medical school.
Once accepted into an osteopathic medical program, you’ll spend two years learning basic anatomy and body structure, infectious diseases, organ systems of humans, pharmacology, biochemistry as well as patient interactions, health law ethics. At the conclusion of your osteopathic medical education you’ll participate in clinical rotations to gain real world experience with patients.
Your clinical experience will involve diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medications, as well as learning hands-on techniques called Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT). OMT involves moving bones and soft tissues using stretching, pressure and resistance in order to foster self-healing abilities in patients – DOs use this healing touch in order to alleviate musculoskeletal symptoms like low back pain, neck pain and muscle strains.
After graduating from your osteopathic medical education, it will be time to find an available residency program for DO graduates. Register with either the American Osteopathic Association Residency Match or National Resident Matching Program depending on where your residency lies.
When applying to osteopathy residency programs, make sure your personal statement contains information about your beliefs and philosophy of medicine related to osteopathy. DO adcoms look for applicants passionate about the practice who have shown this passion through clinical and research experiences; simply adding words such as “holistic” and “whole person” won’t suffice; DO adcoms will become suspicious that this change was just made to get into their program.