The Med Mentor

MD Versus DO

I have been receiving great questions about various topics related to becoming a doctor. Some I have responded to personally and others I would like to address to everybody because they are common questions or concerns that I think can benefit everybody. This topic is one of them. What is the difference between an MD and DO? Can I become a surgeon if I attend DO school? The short answer is absolutely! MD or DO behind your name does not pigeon-hole you into going into a specific subspecialty.

Allopathic (MD) and Osteopathic (DO) medical schools both teach students the scientific foundations needed to become licensed physicians, BUT they take different approaches. Allopathic medical schools are science-based practice focused on diagnosing and treating medical conditions. Osteopathic medicine takes a more holistic approach and focuses heavily on prevention. DOs also learn something called osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) which is a hands-on method that involves moving muscles and joints in a way designed to promote healing.

Both osteopathic and allopathic medical school programs typically last four years and include medical science coursework as well as clinical rotations. What really sets DO schools apart is the training focused on OMT. Most programs require at least 200 hours dedicated to this hands-on technique.

Another big difference between MD and DO school programs is the licensing exams. Allopathic students take the USMLE series and Osteopathic students take the COMLEX sequence. Both are three-step exams and most students take them following this schedule: The first step comes near the end of a student’s second year, the second comes sometime during fourth year, and the last step comes after the first year of residency. It is important to understand that osteopathic and allopathic medical students now have access to the same pool of residency programs.

Ultimately, the decision of pursuing allopathic versus osteopathic education is a matter of personal preference.

I hope this helps. Keep the questions coming. Good luck and study hard!


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