Osteopathic Medicine as a Career

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As an osteopathic physician (D.O.), you are trained to practice with a whole-person approach to healthcare. Your education in osteopathic medicine teaches you to appreciate how all the body's systems are interconnected and how each affects the others. In particular, osteopathic medicine emphasizes the ways our musculoskeletal system, the bones and muscles that make up about two-thirds of our body's mass, reflects and influences the condition of all other body systems.

Your education as an osteopathic physician encourages you to create partnerships with your patients, as you consider the impact of lifestyle and community on their health. You'll use your eyes and your hands to identify structural problems and support the body's natural tendency toward health and self-healing. Your compassionate care and your communication and listening skills also play crucial roles in helping improve the lives of your patients. You'll appreciate their health concerns and help them develop attitudes that both fight and prevent illness.

Most osteopathic medical schools emphasize preventive medicine and comprehensive patient care that incorporates osteopathic principles and techniques, including the art of osteopathic manipulative medicine, a system of hands-on techniques that help alleviate pain, restore motion, and influence the body's structure to help it function more effectively. After medical school, you'll serve a residency in the primary care disciplines of family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, or pediatrics, or in a specialty such as surgery, radiology, psychiatry, or sports medicine.

D.O.s, like M.D.s, are complete physicians, fully trained and licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery. While you may choose any specialty from emergency medicine and cardiovascular surgery to psychiatry and geriatrics, you are trained as a generalist first, a specialist second. 

According to the American Osteopathic Association (AOA):

  • D.O.s are one of the fastest growing segments of health care professionals in the United States. Currently, there are approximately 114,000 osteopathic physicians to be in active medical practice.
  • D.O.s are projected to represent more than 20% of the total U.S. physician population by 2030.
  • Many D.O.s fill a critical need for physicians by practicing in rural and other medically underserved communities.
  • Osteopathic physicians have treated U.S. presidents and Olympic athletes, contributed to the fight against HIV/AIDS, and the fight for civil rights. They have held high-ranking public service positions, such as the surgeon general of the U.S. Army and the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

If you want to be the type of physician who sees a whole person rather than a symptom or illness; someone who gets to know your patients as people and wants to be involved in your community; someone who is compassionate, has a healing touch, and communicates well; and someone who enjoys knowing a diverse range of people from different backgrounds, a career in osteopathic medicine may be just right for you.

Source: American Osteopathic Association

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