Learn the Differences Between a DO and an MD

Ever wonder the difference between a doctor that has DO or an MD after their name when selecting a provider? Read below to learn the differences. 

Primary care physicians can be medical doctors (MDs) or doctors of osteopathy (DOs). While physicians with either DO or MD training can provide primary care, there are some differences in education, treatment philosophy, cost, and availability. 

Both MDs and DOs complete a bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school, and a medical residency before they can practice. However, the medical school programs for MDs and DOs are different.

MD training focuses on allopathic medicine, while DO programs are more holistic. MDs and DOs may opt for certain specializations. While MDs usually have the scientific training and background to pursue specializations, those with DO training may require additional education to qualify.

In practice, MDs and DOs receive comprehensive training in their specific fields and are qualified to practice medicine once their training is complete. MDs may opt for primary care but often choose specializations, while the majority of DOs work as primary care and family practice physicians.

The primary difference between MD and DO practitioners is their treatment philosophy. MD programs tend to be allopathic and focus more on the individual systems of the body and treating distinct symptoms. DO programs emphasize the holistic ways the body’s systems are interconnected.

Allopathic medicine is the foundation of MD education and training. This philosophy focuses on diagnosing and treating the patient’s symptoms directly. MDs use modern medical technology, medication, and surgical intervention to provide preventive care, diagnosis, and acute treatment.

DOs, also called osteopaths, differ from MDs in their philosophical approach. Their whole-body perspective considers the full scope of the person’s overall health to promote well-being. They use modern medical technology like MDs but focus on the body’s interconnected nature.

Osteopathic treatments also include training in hands-on medical treatment like chiropractic adjustments and massage to promote healing and overall wellness.

The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine identifies four tenets as the foundation of osteopathic medicine:

1. The body is a part of a whole person made up of body, mind, and spirit.

2. The body can self-regulate, self-heal, and maintain health.

3. The body’s structure and function affect each other. 4. Effective osteopathic treatment is based on understanding the above three principles.

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