A Guide to Osteopathic Medicine, For Students, By Students
See this comprehensive guide, For Students By Students, was written by current osteopathic medical students, designed to help aspiring physicians understand osteopathic medicine and the path to becoming an osteopathic physician.
Osteopathic Medical Student Profiles
Read some inspiring Osteopathic Medical Student Profiles, all who completed all their pre-medical coursework, took the MCAT, volunteered, shadowed a DO, and successfully applied to medical school.
AACOM's Comprehensive Webpage
The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine's official website For Applicants and Potential Applicants is another great entry point to osteopathic medicine resources including AACOM's latest video, Physicians for the Future, addressing how DO students are being particularly well prepared to meet the 21st century's health care needs. Don't forget to download the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book!
Osteopathic Medicine-An Overview
Osteopathic medicine was founded in the late 1800s as a holistic system of health care based on the ideas of Andrew Taylor Still, MD. This system emphasizes prevention of illness and the maintenance of good health. According to the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book, "Osteopathic physicians, also known as DOs, work in partnership with their patients. They consider the impact that lifestyle and community have on the health of each individual, and they work to erase barriers to good health."
DOs receive the same medical training as MDs, as well as 200 hours of "osteopathic manipulative medicine" (OMM) training. OMM uses manual techniques to address the body's functional and structural issues, thereby allowing the doctor to diagnose and treat illness and injury. The end result is that OMM "helps alleviate pain, restore motion, and support the body's natural structure to help it function more efficiently." DOs' training focuses on the whole person, rather than a particular body part.
The medical education of an osteopathic physician is very similar to that of an allopathic physician. The most visible difference between the two professions is the use of osteopathic manipulative medicine, as noted above. Education in the standard osteopathic program lasts four academic years, followed by a residency. DOs are eligible for licensure in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and many foreign countries. Upon completing their education, osteopathic doctors practice in any aspect of medicine, including pediatrics, anesthesiology, geriatrics, and primary care, to name a few.
Admission to osteopathic medical schools is quite competitive. For students matriculating in 2013, consider the follow stats:
- 27.4% = applicants age 26 and above
- 3.55 = mean cumulative GPA of 2013 applicants
- 3.34 = mean cumulative math/science GPA of 2013 applicants
- 26 = median MCAT of 2013 applicants
Shadowing an Osteopathic Physician
Just like their allopathic counterparts, osteopathic medical schools are looking for applicants to possess personal qualities that demonstrate good communication, strong interpersonal skills, leadership, commitment to service, and clinical experience. It is also important to shadow an osteopathic doctor as well as have a clear motivation for pursuing a career in osteopathic medicine. Here are some useful resources:
The American Association of Osteopathic Medicine
The Maryland Association of Osteopathic Physicians
The American Osteopathic Association (see their DO search feature! Great for shadowing a DO near your home)
Dual Degree Programs for Osteopathic Students
The vast majority of osteopathic medical schools have dual degree programs. For an excellent overview of these programs, go to:
DO Dual Degree
International Osteopathic Practice
Osteopathic medicine as practiced in the United States continues to gain recognition throughout the world. Osteopathic physicians, or DOs, currently have unlimited practice rights in roughly 50 countries, with partial practice rights in many more. For more information, go to the American Osteopathic Association's page DOs Around the World and International Osteopathic Education. In addition, see the International Practice Map of practicing osteopathic physicians and website of the Canadian Osteopathic Association. Finally, to view international clinical rotations available to osteopathic medical students, go to International Clinical Rotations.
Additional Information and Resources
What is Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)
About Osteopathic Medicine (America Osteopathic Association)
The Osteopathic Medical Student Website
Frequently Asked Questions (AACOMAS)
Osteopathic Medical College Information Book (AACOM)
The Student Doctor Network