Osteopathic Medicine

Osteopathic Training & Education

"Only two types of fully trained and fully qualified physicians are licensed in (all 50 of) the United States to practice all branches of medicine and perform surgery. One is the DO, the Doctor of Osteopathy, or osteopathic physician, and the other is the MD, the Doctor of Medicine, or allopathic physician."

Source: Something More: Osteopathic Medicine in Southern Arizona, a publication of the Tucson Osteopathic Medical Foundation

To become an osteopathic physician, an individual must be a graduate of one of this country's 30 osteopathic medical schools. Each is accredited by the Bureau of Professional Education of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). The accreditation is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Typically, osteopathic medical college applicants have a four-year undergraduate degree, and have completed at least one year of English, biological sciences, physics, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. Osteopathic colleges require a personal interview to assess the applicant's communication skills and learn more about that person's interest in osteopathic medicine.

Much like the basic medical education for an MD, the osteopathic medical college curriculum requires four years of academic study, with a unique emphasis on preventive care and a whole-person approach. The first two years focus on basic sciences such as anatomy and physiology. The third and fourth years are devoted to clinical work with teaching in community hospitals, major medical centers, and doctors' offices.

After graduation, DOs must complete an approved 12-month rotating internship, which takes them through a variety of hospital departments, such as internal medicine and surgery. Many DOs opt to take a residency in a specialty or sub-specialty area, such as radiology or pathology. This involves an additional two to six years of training.

All physicians, MD and DO alike, must pass a state medical board examination in order to obtain a license and practice in that state. DOs also must take continuing medical education (CME) studies. The AOA requires its members to complete at least 120 CME hours every three years in order to retain membership status.

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