Osteopathic Medicine

Facts About Osteopathic Medicine & Osteopathic Physicians

The term osteopathy is derived from the Greek words osteo meaning structure, because of the emphasis on the musculoskeletal structure -- the bones, muscles, tissues and nerves which comprise 2/3 of the body -- as a single, organic source of wellness, and pathos, meaning empathy or feeling for.

Osteopathic medicine focuses on the total person, with an appreciation for the interrelationship of the various systems of the body working harmoniously together to maintain health and prevent illness and disease.

Osteopathic medicine was first introduced in America in the late 19th Century by Missouri physician Andrew Taylor Still, MD, who advocated a whole-person approach to diagnosis, treatment, and disease prevention.

DOs are "complete" physicians; they can prescribe medication, perform surgery, and are found in all branches of medicine. DOs have similar academic training, internship, residency, and licensing requirements as MDs. Thus, a DO designation simply means that a physician has additional education in osteopathic medicine, and is not practicing a "different" kind of medicine.

There are 92,000 DOs currently in the U.S. There are DOs on staff at about half of the nation's hospitals.

About 33.8 percent of DOs are women.

DOs log 100 million patient visits each year.

Osteopathic medicine is the fastest growing medical field in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Health Professions. The DO population is growing at a rate of about 1,300, or five percent, per year.

Most (60 percent ) DOs are in primary care, which includes general family practice, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. DOs also are found in all branches of medicine, including specialties such as geriatrics, cardiology, psychiatry, ophthalmology, and emergency medicine.

Some 15 percent of DOs practice in remote or rural areas with populations of 10,000 or less. They are the front-line health care providers for people who might otherwise lack access to care.

From 1971-1990, there was a 103 percent increase in the number of DOs serving areas with populations of 10,000-25,000 people.

There are 30 colleges of osteopathic medicine in 42 locations within the U.S., with some 24,600 students enrolled.

Minorities (African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Islanders) constitute about 20 percent of osteopathic medical college graduates.

DOs comprise about 10 percent of all physicians in the U.S. military and serve in the Public Health Service and the Veteran's Administration. Currently the Surgeon General of the Army is a DO.

DOs are the team doctors for a number of professional sports squads in hockey (Detroit Red Wings), football (San Diego Chargers), basketball (Phoenix Suns and Detroit Pistons), and baseball (Seattle Mariners).

Former President George Bush's personal physician was a DO.

Sources: Tucson Osteopathic Medical Foundation, American Osteopathic Association

©1996 - 2014 Tucson Osteopathic Medical Foundation