Misrepresentation of osteopathic medicine harms the credibility of the 121,000 osteopathic physicians who care for our nation’s sick and injured. The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) stand united in an effort to combat the mischaracterization of doctors of osteopathic medicine by media, celebrities and companies.
Osteopathic physicians, also known as doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs), are fully licensed physicians who practice in every specialty area. Doctors of medicine (MDs) and DOs have equivalent training and practice rights.
DOs account for approximately 11% of all physicians in the United States. They are pediatricians, Ob-Gyns, internists, anesthesiologists, psychiatrists, oncologists, family medicine physicians, emergency medicine physicians, dermatologists, plastic surgeons, ophthalmologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, and more.
DOs hold some of the most prominent positions in medicine, including overseeing care for our nation’s astronauts, those who serve in the uniformed services, the President of the United States, and former Vice President Biden.
Distinct, equivalent training
Osteopathic medicine is a distinctive branch of medical practice in the U.S. that developed in parallel to allopathic medicine over a century ago. It was founded on the belief that all systems in the body are interrelated, each working with the other to heal in times of illness. That whole-person approach to care continues today.
Like MDs, DOs complete four years of education at accredited medical schools, which includes two years of clinical sciences followed by two years of clinical rotations. DOs and MDs pass comprehensive national licensing exams, and then train side-by-side in residency and fellowship programs for three to eleven years, depending on specialty. Upon completion of their training, the only two types of fully licensed physicians, DOs and MDs, work side-by-side in equivalent roles in hospitals, clinics, laboratories, research facilities and more.
DOs receive additional training in osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), which is the therapeutic application of manual techniques (i.e. stretching, gentle pressure and resistance) to diagnose, treat and prevent illness or injury. OMM can be used to treat arthritis, stress injuries, sports injuries, headaches, and pain in areas such as the lower back, neck, shoulders, and knees. For some patients, it serves as an alternative to opioids or other pharmaceutical treatments.
Growth and recognition of osteopathic physicians
The practice of osteopathic medicine, which is more than a century old, has grown rapidly in recent decades. The profession expanded 63% over the last 10 years and nearly 300% in the past 30 years. Today, one in four of all U.S. medical students attends an osteopathic medical school.
Doctors of osteopathic medicine deserve to be honored for their contributions to the health of this nation. Together, the AOA and the AMA ask that those who speak about osteopathic medicine, first learn about the 151,000 osteopathic physicians and medical students who make up this proud profession. For additional information, the AOA is available to provide education resources, materials, and spokespeople.