The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 168,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students.
In addition to advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine, the AOA promotes public health, encourages scientific research, serves as the primary certifying body for DOs and acts as the accrediting agency for all osteopathic medical schools.
There are two types of fully licensed physicians in the US: Medical Doctors (MDs) and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs). Their training and education are similar and equally rigorous, involving four years of medical school followed by specialty training in a residency program. Both types of physicians practice in every medical and surgical specialty in the United States.
Today, there are approximately 135,000 licensed and practicing osteopathic physicians in the US, which is just over 11% of the physician population. Osteopathic medicine is the fastest growing medical field in the U.S., and one in four medical students in the United States is training to be an osteopathic physician. DOs are projected to represent more than 20% of all practicing physicians by 2030.
Osteopathic medicine is a distinct branch of medical practice in the United States. The osteopathic philosophy of medicine sees an interrelated unity in all systems of the body, with each working with the other to heal in times of illness.
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 168,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students. In addition to advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine, the AOA promotes public health, encourages scientific research, serves as the primary certifying body for DOs and acts as the accrediting agency for all osteopathic medical schools. Learn more about DOs and their unique approach to care.
‘Osteopathic physician’ and ‘osteopathic medicine’ are the terms to use for the DOs. ‘Osteopath’ and ‘osteopathy’ refer to foreign-trained, non-physician health care professionals.
Osteopathic physician (DO) should be used when referring to a fully licensed physician who graduated from an accredited osteopathic medical school in the United States and is qualified to prescribe medication and practice in all specialty areas including surgery. Osteopath describes a health care provider trained outside of the United States who does not qualify for licensure for the unlimited practice of medicine.
Osteopathic medicine should be used when referring to medicine practiced by osteopathic physicians who graduate from accredited osteopathic medical schools in the United States. Osteopathy should only be used when referring to the occupation of osteopaths trained outside of the United States who do not qualify for licensure for the unlimited practice of medicine.
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine is the proper name for the degree granted by osteopathic medical schools in the United States and is represented by the acronym DO. Do not use Doctor of Osteopathy. DO also may be used in place of osteopathic physician.
Use the DO designation when referring to an osteopathic physician in the first reference:
State a DO’s specialty as:
Hold more than one professional degree? Use:
Use the terms family medicine and family physician instead of general practice and general practitioner.
Refer to osteopathic medical schools with their osteopathic identification:
Like MDs, DOs complete four years of medical school, followed by post-graduate training that may include an internship, residency and fellowship. Physicians licensed as DOs, like their MD counterparts, must pass a stringent national medical board examination and complete post-graduate training in order to be eligible for state licensure. DOs and MDs may also become board-certified in the practice of their medical specialty.
One way in which DOs are distinct from MDs is they receive an additional 200 hours of training in osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). Through their training, DOs come to understand the body’s musculoskeletal system, an interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones.
DOs partner with patients to help them get healthy and stay well. They take a whole-person approach to treatment and care, focusing on disease prevention. DOs practicing OMM provide diagnosis and treatment through a system of techniques that also help alleviate pain, restore motion, and support the body’s structure to help it function more efficiently.
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View the AOA’s annual Osteopathic Medical Profession (OMP) report for more information and current data on osteopathic medicine.