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What is Osteopathic Medicine? What is a DO?

What is a DO?

Patient care

Discover the DO Difference

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine use a unique whole-person approach to help prevent illness and injury.

What is a DO? Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, are fully licensed physicians who practice in all areas of medicine. Emphasizing a whole-person approach to treatment and care, DOs are trained to listen and partner with their patients to help them get healthy and stay well.

While primary care remains a strong focus for the osteopathic profession, DOs practice in all medical specialties. During medical school, they receive special training in the musculoskeletal system, your body’s interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones. By combining this knowledge with the latest advances in medical technology, they offer patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine.

There are more than 121,000 DOs practicing their distinct philosophy of medicine throughout the U.S. today. With approximately 25% of medical students enrolled in colleges of osteopathic medicine, the profession is one of the fastest-growing segments of health care.

Osteopathic physicians focus on prevention, tuning into how a patient’s lifestyle and environment can impact their wellbeing. DOs strive to help you be truly healthy in mind, body and spirit—not just free of symptoms. Learn more and find your DO today.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is osteopathic medicine?

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.

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, are fully licensed physicians who practice in every medical specialty. DOs practice a whole-person approach to medicine, focused on looking beyond your symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors impact your wellbeing.

The profession is one of the fastest growing segments in health care today, with one out of every four medical students enrolled in an osteopathic medical school.

How are DOs educated and trained?

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, complete four years of osteopathic medical school, with an emphasis on preventive medicine and comprehensive patient care.

They are trained to recognize the interrelated unity among all systems of the body, each working with the other to promote overall health and wellness.

Upon graduating from medical school, DOs complete internships, residencies and fellowships. This training lasts three to eight years and prepares them to become licensed and board-certified.

How are DOs licensed and certified?

Like all physicians in the U.S., Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, are licensed to practice medicine by licensing boards in each state. Requirements vary by state.

Typically, licensure requires successful completion of a medical licensing exam administered by the state licensing board or acceptance of a certificate issued by the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners upon completion of a rigorous series of exams.

The Federation of State Medical Boards provides a directory of state licensing boards that can be contacted for information regarding physician licensure.

DOs earn board certification when they achieve expertise in a medical specialty or subspecialty by meeting the requirements of a specialty certifying board. Physicians in the U.S. can become board certified through the American Osteopathic Association or the American Board of Medical Specialties. The board certification process involves a combination of written, practical and simulator-based tests.

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