Osteopathic Medicine is a system of medicine based on the theory that disturbances in the musculoskeletal system affect other bodily parts, causing many disorders that can be corrected by various manipulative techniques in conjunction with conventional medical, surgical, pharmacological and other therapeutic procedures.
Patients are more than just the sum of their body parts. That's why doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) practice a "whole person" approach to health care. Instead of just treating specific symptoms, osteopathic physicians concentrate on treating the patient as a whole.
Osteopathic physicians understand how all the body's systems are interconnected and how each one affects the others. They focus special attention on the musculoskeletal system, which reflects and influences the condition of all other body systems. This system of bones and muscles makes up about two-thirds of the body's mass, and a routine part of the osteopathic patient examination is a careful evaluation of these important structures. DOs know that the body's structure plays a critical role in its ability to function. They can use their eyes and hands to identify structural problems and to support the body's natural tendency toward health and self-healing.
Osteopathic physicians also use their ears to listen to the patient and their health concerns. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don't just fight illness, but help prevent it. Millions of Americans prefer this concerned and compassionate care, and have made DOs their doctors for life.
To become an osteopathic physician, an individual must graduate from one of the nation's osteopathic medical schools. Each school is accredited by the Bureau of Professional Education of the American Osteopathic Association. This accreditation is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Post-Secondary Education. Typically, applicants to osteopathic medical colleges have a four-year undergraduate degree, and complete specific science courses. Applicants must take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Osteopathic medical schools also usually require a personal interview to assess the student's interpersonal communication skills.
The osteopathic medical school curriculum involves four years of academic study. As a reflection of the osteopathic philosophy, the curriculum emphasizes preventive medicine and comprehensive patient care. Medical students learn to use osteopathic principles and techniques for diagnosis and treatment of disease throughout the curriculum.
After completing osteopathic medical school, DOs often serve a one-year rotating internship, gaining hands-on experience in internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, family practice and pediatrics. This experience ensures that osteopathic physicians are first trained as primary care physicians. The internship provides the DO with the perspective to see and treat every patient as a whole person.
DOs will continue their graduate medical education with a residency consisting of two to six years of additional training. Residencies are available in the primary care disciplines - including family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology and pediatrics, as well as other specialties such as surgery, radiology, preventive medicine, pathology, otorhinolaryngology and others.
All physicians (both DOs and MDs) must pass a multi-step licensing examination in order to obtain a license and enter practice. Each state board sets its own requirements for the physician to practice in that state.
DOs are complete physicians. That means they are fully trained and licensed to prescribe medication and to perform surgery. DOs and allopathic physicians (MDs) are the only two types of complete physicians in the United States. DOs practice in all branches of medicine from psychiatry to geriatrics to emergency medicine. However, DOs are trained to be generalists first, and specialists second. The majority are primary care physicians. Many DOs practice in small towns where they often care for entire families and whole communities.
Some facts about osteopathic physicians:
The number of DOs has increased 67 percent since 1990.
More than 65% of all DOs practice in the primary care areas of family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology and pediatrics.
DOs represent 6% of total U.S. physicians and over 8% of all military physicians.
Each year, more than 100 million patient visits are made to DOs.
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