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The number of DOs and osteopathic medical students in the U.S. now tops 178,000 —an 81% increase over the past decade.
Since its establishment 130 years ago, the osteopathic profession has forged tremendous growth to become one of the most impactful and influential contributors to the U.S. healthcare system. What began as a distinctive philosophy of medicine founded by a frontier physician in 1892 has evolved into a vibrant and diverse community of more than 178,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and medical students who combine medical expertise with a whole-person approach focused on listening and partnering with their patients.
Building on the foundational tenets of osteopathic medicine, DOs today provide patients with a full spectrum of care: “Modern medicine for your body, mind and spirit.” From their first days of medical school, DOs are trained to see an interrelated unity among all systems of the body and strive to help patients achieve overall health, not just relief from symptoms. Structure impacts function and all patients seek optimal function.
The osteopathic medical profession is one of the fastest-growing segments of healthcare, representing more than 11% of all physicians in the U.S. The profession is on track to continue exponential growth, with more than one in four of all current U.S. medical students choosing to pursue osteopathic medicine. DOs practice in each and every medical specialty, from primary care to surgery and emergency medicine, and hold some of the most prominent positions in medicine today, including serving as Physician to the President of the United States, NASA’s Chief Health and Medical Officer and physician to many Olympic-level and professional athletes.
The osteopathic medical profession added more than 7,300 DOs to the physician workforce in 2022. Moreover, the pipeline of future DOs poised to enter the profession reached an all-time high, with approximately 36,500 osteopathic medical students expected to matriculate during the 2022-23 academic year. Over the last decade, the number of students attending osteopathic medical school has grown by 77%, helping lead to an overall 81% increase in the total number of DOs and osteopathic medical students in the U.S.
Total DOs & Students178,259
DOs in the U.S.141,759
Source: AOA Physician Masterfile, May 2022; Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation. Includes all living DOs, including an estimated 7,303 osteopathic medical students who graduated in 2022 and 9,575 first-year osteopathic medical students expected to matriculate in the 2022-23 academic year.
As more medical students choose to pursue osteopathic medicine, the demographic makeup of the profession continues to evolve. Over the last decade, the proportion of the DO population in active practice under age 45 has increased by 16%. In 2022, more than 82,000 DOs practicing in the U.S. were younger than 45, representing over two thirds of the profession.
More females are choosing to become DOs, demonstrated by an 18% increase in the proportion of female DOs in active practice over the past decade. This number is expected to grow as the number of female osteopathic medical students continues to increase. According to the 2021 AACOM Application Service Applicant and Matriculant Report, 54% of first-year osteopathic medical school matriculants for the 2021-22 academic year were female.
of DOs in active practice under 4568 %
of female DOs in active practice under 4547 %
Source: AOA Physician Masterfile, May 2022.
Although the osteopathic profession has a proud history of educating and training primary care physicians,
DOs are increasingly expanding their distinctive body, mind, spirit approach to care across the full spectrum of medical specialties practiced in the U.S.
More than half of the nation’s DOs currently practice in primary care specialties such as family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics, while the remainder provide care in specialties like emergency medicine, obstetrics & gynecology, surgery, and many more.
With a looming physician shortage expected to impact the nation’s healthcare infrastructure within the next decade, the osteopathic profession plays a critical role in helping to build the country’s workforce of frontline physicians. Osteopathic medical schools comprised all of the top five and eight of the top 10 spots on the U.S. News & World Report list of medical schools with the most graduates practicing in primary care. Overall, 24 schools of osteopathic medicine ranked in the top 50 schools on the list. DO schools were also featured prominently on the publication’s list of medical schools with the most graduates providing direct patient care in rural areas, demonstrating the profession’s strong commitment to serving communities with health disparities.
of DOs practice in primary care57 %
of DOs practice in other specialties43 %
Source: AOA Physician Masterfile, May 2022.
After graduating from osteopathic medical school, DOs complete internships, residencies and fellowships, which can last between 3-8 years and prepare them to practice a specialty of their choosing. Following the 2020 completion of the five-year transition to a single accreditation system for graduate medical education in the U.S., the AOA remains strongly committed to ensuring access to postgraduate training opportunities for all DOs.
The 2022 NRMP Match resulted in a record number of DO students and graduates placing into residency positions in 41 medical specialties, the most ever recorded for DO Match Day placements and an increase from the number reported in 2021. A total of 7,049 osteopathic students and physicians secured placements, reflecting a nearly 7% increase over the previous year.
During the 2020-21 academic year, more than 25,000 DOs participated in residency and fellowship programs in 124 specialties and subspecialties. More than 2,600 of these trained in programs with Osteopathic Recognition, a designation earned by ACGME-accredited postgraduate training programs for incorporating osteopathic principles and practice into the clinical learning environment.
increase in Match Day DO placements7 %
NRMP Match Day DO placements7,049
Source: National Resident Matching Program; American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.
For the 2022-23 academic year, the AOA’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) will accredit 38 colleges of osteopathic medicine offering instruction at 60 locations to approximately 36,500 medical students.
With a focus on providing care for underserved communities, the majority of osteopathic medical schools are located in rural areas with limitations on access to care. Graduates of these schools play a critical role in helping to counter the nation’s physician shortage and provide underserved populations with much-needed access to care provided both by primary physicians and specialists.
Osteopathic Medical Students36,500
Osteopathic Medical Schools38
Source: Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.