DO vs MD: What factors to consider

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DO vs MD: What factors to consider

DO vs MD; not like choosing your favorite condiment!
DO vs MD

                             DO vs MD

The DO vs MD question has elicited some of the most heated debates on Premedfaq.com, and while there are some subjective differences between DO and MD degrees/physicians, I’m going to try to keep this objective. There are some subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the admissions practices and educational paths of DO vs MD schools, as well as the percentages of MD vs DO physicians in different specialties. Let’s dive in!

Why would someone consider the DO route?

You’re into alternative medicine, public health, or preventative care. Osteopathic medical training is becoming increasingly popular as U.S. lawmakers are concerned about the high cost of care and therefore, much more interested in preventative care and alternative methods of reducing such costs. In fact, research centers are popping up at some of the most prestigious schools (HarvardUConn, Princeton) and are receiving serious funding from the NIH to study and apply alternative medical treatments. So, any of that sounds compelling, you might want to explore the DO route, since your training will likely introduce you to a range of alternative therapies and theories MDs won’t focus on as much during med school. That’s not to say you can’t get into preventative, alternative or manipulative care if you go the MD route. MD grads are free to explore fellowships and masters degrees in these fields after—or even before, in the case of MD/MPH joint degree programs—they graduate. It just means you aren’t as likely to be exposed to it during medical school. Here’s an excellent book I found that’s truly as comprehensive as you can get: “The DOs: Osteopathic Medicine in America.”

DO vs MD?

MD vs DO?

How do the DO vs MD admissions processes differ?

Generally, the academic markers are lower for applicants to DO programs. If your MCAT score and/or GPA is out of range or at the low end of what most MD programs are looking for, it may still be competitive enough to get you into a DO program. That said, DO schools don’t accept just anyone. The average overall GPA of those who matriculated into DO programs was a 3.56, and the average MCAT score was a 502.44 (from AACOM 2016 matriculate data). Those who matriculated into MD programs averaged an overall GPA of 3.7, with an average MCAT score of 508.7 (from AAMC 2017 matriculate data). This points to significant differences in GPA and especially MCAT scores for MD/DO candidates.

When it comes to the rest of your application (which is just as important as your GPA and MCAT score), there are subtle differences. MD programs seem to value research and publications more than DO programs, while DO programs place more value on clinical and volunteer experience. What I am not saying here is that MD programs don’t care about clinical and volunteer experiences (they do), or that DO programs don’t look for research hours and publications (they do). What I am saying is that research carries more weight on your AAMC (MD) application, and clinical experiences, especially with DO physicians, carry extra importance on your AACOMAS (DO) application. DO programs often cite their holistic approach to medicine when talking about their admissions practices, which means they are looking for applicants with a variety of experiences, not just great GPA and/or MCAT scores. MD schools seem to be adopting this approach more and more as time goes on, but the GPA and MCAT numbers I shared don’t lie.

MCAT prep course, either way!

Given that you’ll be taking the MCAT for either program, you’ll want to consider whether to give yourself that extra bump by taking an MCAT prep course.

Another important difference is that DO programs prefer that at least one of your letters of recommendation come from a DO physician (some DO programs require it).

All things considered, MD programs are academically more demanding of their applicants, and MD programs like to see research and publications in an applicant’s file. DO programs look for well-rounded individuals that have a diverse list of clinical and volunteer experiences. Check out the 2016 MSAR, which you can pick up on Amazon.

How do DO vs MD schools differ?

Whether you choose to pursue a DO vs MD degree, you’ll spend four years in medical school. Your residency program will be very similar, ranging from 2-7 years, depending on your specialty. In the past, the residency options have been different for DO’s, but the accrediting organizations that oversee the MD and DO residencies are merging, which means all medical students will have the same options when it comes to residency choice after medical school.

With either MD vs DO training, physicians are well prepared to thrive in any specialty. The main difference lies in the focus of each degree. DO programs tend to emphasize preventative medicine and a holistic approach to patient care, while MD programs stick to a more biomedical approach. Most MD schools focus heavily on clinical and bench (laboratory) research, both in funding and in education. DO programs, generally, do not.

Another major difference in a DO physician’s training is the study of osteopathic manipulative treatment or “OMT” (think chiropractic techniques). Most schools require every student to complete a 200-hour course on OMT during the first two years of medical school. MD programs have no analogous class.

MD students must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in order to enter a residency and work as a physician in the United States. DO students must take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) to become physicians. DO students can take the USMLE if they plan to enter an allopathic (MD) residency (this is all about to change, see below).

How do residency options for MD vs DO students differ?

In the past, residency options for DOs were different than those for MDs. Only if a DO student took the USMLE would they be able to apply both to osteopathic and allopathic residencies, giving them more opportunities to match into a residency. But, the accrediting organizations that oversee the two are merging, which means all medical students will have the same options when it comes to residency choice. (The examinations for MDs and DOs will continue to remain separate.) That said, acceptance rates are indeed lower. If you’re a 4th year student in a DO program and decide to apply for an allopathic residency, your chances of matching are around 70%. For the same 4th year student in an MD program, his/her probability of matching is 95%.

Because it is well-known that DO schools are somewhat less competitive than MD schools, residencies may take into account the fact that you were a slightly less competitive applicant as a pre-med student. Generally speaking, DO residents tend to place into primary care specialties at a higher rate. Whether this is because the focus of their DO education has been on primary care or because they are less competitive when it comes to matching into more specialized residencies is up for debate, but it seems to be some of both.

As a DO candidate, your grades and extracurricular work during medical school, plus the strength of your letters of recommendation will the greatest bearing on where you get your first job. After that, the jobs you get will have little (to nothing) to do with the letters behind your name, as long as you’re licensed to practice as physician in your state.

How does DO practice differ from that of an MD?

On the whole, not a lot. DOs use all of the same treatments, tools, and technologies that MDs do. In fact, DOs can choose from any of the specialties MDs can, from emergency medicine to cardiovascular surgery, geriatrics to psychiatry. As previously mentioned, DO schools do focus on preventative care and holistic medicine more so than MD programs, and they teach osteopathic manipulative therapy, but the standards and protocols of care are the same across degrees.

DO-trained physicians and MD-trained physicians are held to the same standards of patient care. They practice in all specialties, but DO-trained physicians specialize in primary care specialties at a higher rate than their MD counterparts. Having been trained in a medical school that focuses on preventative care and holistic medicine, DO-trained physicians may also be more likely to offer more, non-pharmaceutical care options to a patient, but rest assured that both MDs and DOs alike are competent, skilled physicians.

There are many more MD schools than DO schools in the U.S… Why?

Osteopathy, as a field of medicine, exists as an alternative to the traditional medical care model. Whereas allopathic (MD) medical training tends to focus on medication and surgical procedures, osteopathic (DO) study includes basic training in various naturopathic treatments and preventative measures. The first osteopathy school wasn’t founded until 1892; the first allopathic school was founded more than a century before. Since then DO schools have increased in number, and factors that distinguish them from MD schools have diminished substantially. DOs are licensed to practice medicine in any setting or specialty, so far as they have received the proper training and certification.

DO vs MD: The verdict

All that said, since DOs and MDs have essentially the same privileges and opportunities, it seems like choosing DO vs MD shouldn’t really be that big of a deal. If you love the city where a DO school you are accepted to is located, but you hate the city where the MD school you got into sits, it’s probably important to think about your priorities, and ask yourself if the “prestige” of the MD degree is worth a rough 4+ years. However, it’s a fact that DO schools focus on preparing docs for practice in primary care fields including family practice, internal medicine and pediatrics, making it tougher to get into a competitive residency program as a DO student, unless you’re at the very tip-top of your class. You can do a check of the school(s) you’re applying to, to find out how many students get into the specialty you’re interested in each year using the latest MSAR.

If you’re visiting this page, you’re probably trying to figure out whether the whole med school thing is for you, or you already have and you’re trying to chart a path for yourself to get there. (Other than this website) one of the best resources I’ve come across is On Becoming a Doctor: Everything You Need to Know about Medical School, Residency, Specialization, and Practice, and you can get it for 10 bucks or so on Amazon. Anyway, it calmly and thoroughly walks you through each academic, physical, and emotional step you’ll take on your way to a successful career in medicine, and includes interviews with many different specialists to help you choose a medical path. And just in case you’re considering going the Caribbean/foreign med school route, read this first!

Here are a few more posts you may like:

What’s the best MCAT prep course?

Best MCAT prep book sets: Kaplan, Princeton Review, Examkrackers or Berkeley?

Where can I get a comprehensive list of MCAT prep books for 2017?

Can I still get into a residency program if I don’t go to a top-tier medical school?

How do I go about choosing a medical specialty?

Are there medical schools with minimum GPA requirements, and if I don’t meet it, will they automatically reject me?

DO vs. MD | Pre MED FAQ

By | 2017-11-15T14:44:22+00:00 October 23rd, 2017|Medical School|54 Comments

About the Author:

Pre-med just finished my last year of university, sat for the MCAT in June and got acceptance to my preferred school. Awaiting news on one other med school where I'm on the wait list! Volleyball, sports and travel are my passions.

54 Comments

  1. Pre-Med Ask It! March 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm - Reply

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  3. Pre-Med Ask It! April 14, 2012 at 2:08 am - Reply

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  4. LakersTrent April 26, 2012 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    Most common reasons for DO over MD:
    1- A unique personal proclivity toward osteopathic manipulation techniques, alternative medicine, etc.
    2- A geographic or financial preference for a specific DO school
    3- Certain preference for primary care fields and ambivalence toward DO vs MD behind your name
    4- Little or no choice due to strength of application

  5. Lost In PreMed May 2, 2012 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    What's the difference between MDs and DOs? In the ER (and most specialties), the answer is simple NOTHING! Read up http://t.co/tAIBNLVN

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  12. MD June 1, 2012 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Although the training is basically equivalent, DO’s are at a significant disadvantage compared to MD’s in the next phase of training–applying for residency. All things being equal, residency programs will typically select an MD over a DO. For competitive specialties (e.g. dermatology, radiology, surgical subspecialties), there are more qualified MD candidates than there are spots, so DO’s have an especially hard time getting in anywhere. Even for less competitive specialties (i.e. primary care), a similar dynamic pushes DO’s out of the running of the most prestigious programs and most desirable locations. Just something to consider.

    • Suzanne March 6, 2014 at 5:04 am - Reply

      Although I am not a medical student, “just” a patient, perhaps this is because of the long-standing “Good Old Boy” glass ceiling of the programs run primarily by medical doctors. I have seen medical doctors for most of my adult life, primarily because being in the military, I had no choice. Now that I am retired from the military, I can return to doctors of osteopathy. While in the military, I had medications pushed at me each time I went to the doctor. It’s a common joke in the military that everyone walks out of the doctor’s office with “military candy,” which is either a huge bottle of 800 mg Motrin or Cepacol throat lozenges! All this from medical doctors.

  13. Tp July 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    Let’s be frank here–a student ‘chooses’ a DO program when confronted with rejections from MD programs, brochures to programs abroad and a ticking clock. It’s a choice of necessity, not desire to ‘holistically treat.’ Upon graduation, we are all expected to (and will approach) our patients in a very similar way: quick physical diagnosis/assessment/labs/empiric data and proceed. Spinal manipulation has shit to do with treatment of acute cholecystitis.

    Choosing a DO program is recognizing that your application is weak so you’re biding your time and hoping to kill step 1 as a means of rebuilding your CV for residency–let’s not glorify this. DOs are working against a known stigma and, that being said, starting at a deficit might make you thicker skinned but you’re not going to overcome this kind of gap easily and you should be open to matching in a less competitive residency.

    • Bryce October 3, 2012 at 1:11 pm - Reply

      Thanks for writing, TP, although I don’t think you really offer anything valuable in your comment. My post clearly addresses the fact that DO schools tend to be less competitive, and that they are a viable option for students with less competitive applications. I don’t know why you feel the need re-explain that. But you’re wrong to think that DO programs are always a last ditch effort to get in somewhere. Some pre-meds simply don’t care about the essentially baseless status associated with MD as much as you do, and just want to practice medicine. I think your comment would be more accurate if you inserted “in my mind” at the beginning or end of every sentence. You have some clear biases that don’t apply to other people and reflect a lot of guessing about something with which you have zero direct experience. The only reason I’m responding is to reassure readers that the DO route is a respectable choice that will allow them to pursue a satisfying career in medicine. If someone, like TP, says otherwise, it’s probably because they have their eager little hearts set on all the respect they think they’ll get with their big bad MD degree.

      • Ads October 15, 2012 at 10:19 am - Reply

        No one on earth would ‘choose’ a DO degree if they could get into any MD program. Honestly, this we are just as good as them propaganda only makes DOs look more pathetic. As a patient, ask yourself a simple question-do you want someone with an average 22 MCAT score and 2.0 undergrad gpa or do want someone with a brain that has efficient training? My brother in law is getting a DO now and he is a complete idiot who couldn’t get into any medical school but tells people he ‘chose’ DO school. Yeah right. Just accept what everyone knows, that DO school is a last resort for those who could never be MDs. You are not fooling anyone. It is like saying I got into Harvard law school but choose to be a paralegal instead.

        • Jacqueline November 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm - Reply

          Thanks Bryce for your well-meaning post to distinguish DOs from MDs, but there are broad assumptions that you and those who responded above, have made. First, everyone is assuming that no one with very good stats (MCAT, GPA, clinical/volunteer experience, etc.) will ever consider DO schools over MD schools. That’s like saying anyone who wants to be a vet doesn’t really want to be a “real” doctor because “real” doctors must have DO or MD behind their names. Absolute BS. Please take the time to really study the osteopathic philosophy before trashing it. Negative posts like the ones above are the reason why osteopathic medicine still gets a bad rap today. In the end, DOs and MDs have to work together in their practices, so it will help if the negativity ends before then. Lets spend more time analyzing the perils of our health system and the possible solutions to the gaps in health care delivery in this country, because in my opinion, that’s a more noteworthy issue.

        • Mpre-DO November 24, 2012 at 7:10 am - Reply

          There is more to one’s decision to go to DO vs. MD, than just grades. I can’t comment on your brother-in-law, but having worked in the medical field for the last five years, and having MDs in the family, I see more and more patients actually requesting DOs, and even MDs suggesting that clinically the DO approach is stronger than the allopathic approach (not my words, a doc I work with who is an MD, his opinion). The main problem here is “ego”. A DO can take the USMLE just like the MD med-students, and apply for allopathic residencies. His/her acceptance is dependant on the score, not so much if they are MD/DO. Both are doctors, and both go through rigorous training to get there. I am only applying DO, even after working for years at a well-known allopathic medical school. It is not because I don’t have a competitive application, it is because I allign myself with the DO philosophy, and it is a personal choice.

          It is sad to see that there are still people out there that thrive off demeaning fellow practioners. With the new integrative approach towards patient care, you’ll have plenty of battles to fight…DO today, next mid-levels; DNPs perhaps?

        • David November 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm - Reply

          Another possible difference: perhaps DOs tend to have less god-complex issues.

        • Mike January 11, 2013 at 3:29 am - Reply

          Well I can tell you that you are wrong. I am a Master of Biomedical Science holder with a 3.9 GPA and 32 MCAT, over 1500 hours of EMT volunteering, 300 hours of medical research, and 100 hours of shadowing and hospital volunteering. I have received multiple acceptances from MD schools, but yet have decided to attend a DO school because I am leaning toward a field in primary care and am very interested in preventative medicine. So maybe you should grow up and stop assuming things just because you know someone going to a DO school. With any profession, DO or MD, you will have quack doctors and amazing doctors. Sorry your brother in law fell into the quack category, but you’re obviously following his footsteps with that mindset.

        • Brian Flannagan February 1, 2013 at 2:44 pm - Reply

          BAHAHA. Whatever brother. I had a 31 MCAT (taken sophomore year without upper level courses) 3.72 gpa, 4 publications. Didn’t want to move 5000 miles away from everyone I knew so I chose the osteopathic school 35 minutes down the road. Personally, I don’t see the differences between the two professions. All I know is, my uncle is an osteopathic neurologist who was chief resident of his residency at UF (an M.D. residency), hasn’t had a single malpractice complaint in 23 years, and has more Ferrari’s in his garage than Ferrari of Miami (not an exaggeration). You guys keep talking the talk, i’ll be finishing up my first yr and looking forward to the rest. Right on brotha!!!

        • Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV March 2, 2013 at 10:28 am - Reply

          about me:

          DO radiologist in New York, NY
          Princeton grad
          3.91 GPA
          41 T MCAT

          • Mike May 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm

            Love how the ones who actually think you are real, rather than Tom Selleck from the Magnum P.I. tv show. They must be D.O.s.

        • james April 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm - Reply

          I think you have a problem with your brother-in-law.

        • JH April 16, 2013 at 8:05 pm - Reply

          Going to DO school, have a 3.8 and a 33 MCAT, didn’t get into my top 3 schools because apparently I had a lack of medical experience (whatever that means). Have no shame going that route, I want to be a doctor not a pretentious little fuck.

        • Christine November 2, 2013 at 7:40 pm - Reply

          I want to be a DO. I have a 3.72 GPA and received a 29 on the MCAT. For I only studied for the MCAT a week before, so it probably was not my best work. I am set to graduate with a BS next semester one year ahead of schedule. While I will not claim to be the smartest person on the planet I am most certainly not dumb or desperate. Osteopathic medicine is my first and only choice period.

        • John August 22, 2014 at 12:23 am - Reply

          You are posting blatant lies. Average MCAT score and GPA of DO matriculants for the class of 2013 and 2014 were 27 and 3.5. Yes, admission stats have gone up by a lot for DO schools. More and more applicants choose DO over MD due to a desire to learn OMM and other factors like location.

          • Bryce Johnson August 22, 2014 at 12:58 am

            Hi John,
            Not sure what you are referring to, as I clearly state that getting into both MD and DO programs is tough. And it is. Both programs are competitive. I added the scores you mentioned for 2013 and 2014 to my response, so thanks for the input. I also mentioned choice of location and desire to study extra naturopathic and preventative medicine as factors in making the DO/MD choice. I just don’t see where you might have a beef. I thought my answer to the question of DO vs. MD was quite complementary of the DO professional and his/her decision. Can you enlighten me on what I said that’s gotten you so upset?https://premedfaq.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.php#comments-form

        • Justin November 15, 2015 at 1:05 am - Reply

          Wrong, I choose to be a DO and will be applying DO primarily. DO represent the future of medicine with a more holistic approach; the patient, not just diagnosis.

          I want to be a part of that.

          • Bryce Johnson November 17, 2015 at 2:49 pm

            You are not alone. Many pre-meds want to be DOs, for the reasons you cite. Preventative medicine and a holistic approach are definitely the future of medicine, for any and all doctors.

  14. MJ November 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Wow… Kind of harsh don’t you think? I’m a student at a D.O. School and for your information neither I nor anyone know got in with a 22 MCAT and 2.0 GPA like you’re claiming. Last time I checked, some of us take the exact same board exams and go to the same ACGME residencies. And just in case you were wondering, I actually did get into an MD school but I didn’t want to pay 3x the tuition at an out of state school and be so far away from home. Jesus… Lets hope you never have an emergency and go to the ER because, *gasp* what if there’s only a D.O. Working there?!?! The HORROR!!!! Some people are so ignorant…

  15. Josh November 28, 2012 at 6:31 am - Reply

    Here’s a patient’s perspective.

    The MDs I’ve visited for various ailments almost always addressed problems by prescribing medicine in a guessing game fashion or recommending surgery for common ailments.

    The DOs have evaluated the same issues and recommended diet and/or specific excerise along with chiro/manipulation.

    The DOs have been 100% effective for me without leaving scars or facing potential addiction.

    As an example, I had sciatica, very painful, missed weeks of work. The MD prescribed oxycontin and sent me to a specialist who wanted to fuse 3 vertebrae to “fix” the issue.

    My DO adjusted my hip and showed me stretches to fix the problem. Pain was gone immediately and 10 years later the problem is still gone.

    I’ll pick DOs everytime.

    • Mharvey March 21, 2016 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      Josh I agree. My former family Dr. was an MD. I wasn’t too fond of him because of his approach to how he treated me, his lack of people skills or his decision to fix anything. I was prescribed a drug that interacted with other meds I was taking at the time and one other time I was called a hypochondriac. I had switched now to a DO who took me seriously. He treated me without any meds at except a topical cream the first time. He also took me seriously about hip pain. After an extensive (and painful) exam he diagnosed me with periformis syndrome. I went to a physical therapist who corrected the problem shortly after. Another MD saw my dad who was a nephrologist. HE saw my dad b/c of his kidney stones and the doctor knew that my dad was a recovering alcoholic. He told my dad that if he never wanted to have another kidney stone again just drink a beer everyday. Imadine what has now happened.

      • Bryce Johnson March 28, 2016 at 8:12 pm - Reply

        Mharvey, that’s disturbing…. Let’s not call it indicative of a DO vs. MD orientation, but rather the sign of a lazy doctor!

  16. ARmed January 13, 2013 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    1. There is a difference between DO’s and MD’s. If they were the same, then they would be integrated by now.
    2. The difference lies in a matter of additional training and philosophical thought, not in absence of coursework/training or of intellectual capacity.
    3. If you think the two letters that are behind your name is what will determine whether you are a good doctor or not, or whether or not you will be respected as a professional/person, you need some help in your thinking skills. I’ve met hundreds of physicians, DO’s and MD’s. There are good physicians and there are not so good physicians. Some of the best physicians I know are DO’s; some of the best physicians I know are MD’s. I know some DO’s that don’t listen to patients and just try and shove meds down patients. I know some MD’s that are very preventative medicine-minded and use meds only when absolutely necessary. You will get a top-notch education wherever you go, osteopathic school or MD school. YOU are the one that will determine if you are a good doctor or not. Your personality, values, beliefs, work ethic, etc. will make or break you, not where you go to school. I have been accepted to an MD school and a DO school and am going to the DO because I like the school/location better than the MD school/location. I also like rural medicine and respect osteopathic medicine’s commitment to improving rural health. In the end, go wherever you want to spend the next 4 years. DO or MD, you are a DOCTOR and you will ALWAYS be in business. You have a set of skills and provide a service that people will always need and will seek you out for, no matter what.

  17. Quentin January 20, 2013 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    I am a DO student at PCOM. The only reason I am going to this school is because I was rejected from every MD school I applied to due to poor grades and a weak application. My dad is an MD and suggested I apply to a DO school unless I wanted to sink as low as going to the carribean. DO schools have a significantly lower GMAT and MCAT requirement. So I suggest if you are obsessed with becoming a doctor and aren’t as smart as legit MDs, you should apply to DO school and suck it up when residency time comes

    • Boggly March 14, 2013 at 10:39 am - Reply

      If your claim about DOs being less smart than MDs is true, then you are really showing it

  18. carla garcia D.O April 8, 2013 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    I’m doing RADs in an university MD program ,thanks God!!
    if God is with you don’t matter the letters after your name

    • Roy May 6, 2013 at 10:00 am - Reply

      Let’s not lie to ourselves guys. There is a difference in how you will be looked at professionally if you choose a DO. Some people just do not care about it, and it is ok. The philosophy for DO programs is fantastic, unfortunately in the academic world they just don’t cut it. I am not saying that smart people only choose MD’s, although the vast majority of them actually do. Someone choosing a DO with above average GPA and MCAT score is really an exception, since most people on that boat will choose MD long before they consider going MD. Whether this is a fair attitude or not, does not matter because it happens to be reality.
      It is true that you “can” get into some competitive MD residencies if you are following the DO route, however, one must consider where it happened. I am fairly confident that the Massachusetts General, Hopkins, Mayo Clinic…. and all top academic hospitals clearly have a bias to MD graduates. Yes, you will see DO radiologists, but you will never see a DO radiologist from any of the top training programs for those residencies. There are even some residencies where you will practically never encounter a DO (ENT, Neurological Surgery, Dermatology).
      At the end, if you are doing private practice, it might not matter because it is not like you have in your employee badge, trained at X hospital, however you would never really be considered for academic medicine if you happend to be in the DO boat. I am talking about prestigious academic medicine. Even though there are great DO’s out there, we still as a society have a bias towards MD, and as long as we have it, those differences will still be there.

      You should ask yourself things like:
      What do I want to do for residency?
      Does it matter to me where I train for residency?
      Do I want to work in an academic Hospital (academic DO hospitals do not have nearly as much popularity and prestige as academic MD hospitals)?

      If those things matter to you, you do would do well by avoiding a DO. If they don’t then DO might just be a great route for you. I have looked at some of the MD schools where I have been accepted and it is impressive to see how there match lists are so incredible that it is hard to believe. Virtually everyone got into there first or second choice residency program (and I am talking of really good training programs.) The average board score for its graduating class was 243 last year and it has been in the 240’s for the several years now. For those who do not understand, that is two standard deviations above the mean, basically most of their graduating MD class could have picked what ever residency they wanted and would have gotten in with no problem. While this can happend in a DO school, it will be an exception and not the rule. Stories like this are not exceptions but the rule at some MD schools.

      Although not pleasant, that is reality.

      • wookie October 26, 2013 at 8:47 pm - Reply

        My sister is a DO Dermatologist, dual board certified in
        Dermatology and Internal Medicine, at a top east coast
        facility.

  19. Roy May 6, 2013 at 10:01 am - Reply

    ** correction: long before they consider going DO.

  20. Erin Steitz June 30, 2013 at 10:30 am - Reply

    In the 21st century, the training of osteopathic physicians in the United States is very similar to that of their M.D. counterparts. Osteopathic physicians attend four years of medical school followed by at least three years of residency. They use all conventional methods of diagnosis and treatment. Though still trained in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM), the modern derivative of Still’s techniques,’:“

  21. Roy August 10, 2013 at 7:05 am - Reply

    Being a third year osteopathic medical student, I thought this article was on the mark – for the most part. The only thing I would change is that naturopathic is completely distinct from osteopathy, and we learn none of it. We also don’t learn alternative meicine – osteopathy is more of a philosophy and we learn OMM (osteopathic manipulative treatment) which is seperate but apart of the osteopathic education. Why do I say that it’s seperate? Because medicine is such a vast field and you can incorporate OMM into your practice as you wish, but the framework of thinking that osteopathy build in its students will be apart of your clinical decision making regardless of what field you go into. What is OMM? I would describe it as a mix between physical therapy and chiropractic, however to understand it completely you would have to know the history of osteopathy.
    As far as the applicant pool – I had almost identicle grades and mcat as most of my friends that were accepted into MD schools and in fact I thought my application was a little better. However, there is alot more that comes into play than what’s on paper. It is important to meet the right people, get some clinical experience and interview well. I chose osteopathy because I loved the school I interviewed at and I didn’t get into my home MD school. I could have applied to MD schools for another 5 years (lots of people do this) and gotten in, but I don’t care much about what comes after my name. In the end, caring for patients is what medicine boils down to.

    • Roy August 10, 2013 at 7:38 am - Reply

      Just to clarify some things from my last comment (Sorry I am in pre-op waiting for a patient and on my ipad, so also sorry for grammatical errors). I am not the Roy who was posting some rather ill-inforrmed comments earlier. Also – I implied that OMM is not an essential part of the D.O. degree which is wrong. If you go to an osteopathic medical school you will have to learn OMM and you will be tested over it, but once you have your degree you can pick and choose what you would like to use or not use. I also said that we don’t learn alternative medicine. I meant to say that we don’t learn to incorporate medicinal techniques and practices that don’t have evidence of improving the lives of patients….but I’ll admit as a D.O. candidate that there is some research lacking in the OMM field.
      A few random thoughts:
      People ask me all the time why I chose D.O. – I tell them whatever they want to hear.
      I’m constantly asked: “What is a D.O.?” I tell them it’s seperate but identical to an M.D.
      You should always take things with a grain of salt when you read forums and other opinionated articles. Alot of students rely heavily on forums like student doc and uncle harvey (etc etc) for their information, but sooooo much of it is innacurate. If you are a student that is interested in osteopathic medicine then go for it – the world is your oyster. If you reallllly want that M.D. for some reason then go for it – my mother always said: “Those who do, do and those who don’t, don’t.”
      For patients: Go to the doctor that you feel most comfortable with.

  22. Este October 29, 2013 at 8:20 am - Reply

    *raises hand* decided to apply to only DO schools before calculating GPA or preparing for MCAT

  23. Annie February 24, 2015 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    This might be a stupid question, but I was told by some professors that it’s easier to specialize when you’re an MD than when you’re a DO. I’d really like to specialize, for various reasons. Do you think it’s true that it’s significantly easier to specialize and train in different fellowships when you’re an MD, or do you think that, especially with recent residency merge, there won’t be much of a difference? Thanks for any help!!

    • Bryce Johnson March 31, 2015 at 4:08 pm - Reply

      Annie,
      No question is stupid! That you’re willing to ask shows you are ready to learn. What you heard may be true, but it’s mostly because quite a few DO programs are specially designed to prepare medical students for family practice. The only reason it’s easier to specialize as an MD is that good residencies are competitive, and some students who drift into DO programs do so because their applications are less than competitive. In a DO program, if you want to choose your residency you’ll have to be at the top of your class. Then, and only then, can you compete with the MD school students. In more than a few cases, DO students have beat out MD candidates who cruised through their program getting lackluster grades and showing little commitment. DOs really can (and do) specialize in just about any medical field.

  24. Jo DO October 31, 2015 at 11:41 am - Reply

    From a DO’s perspective;

    I am in my 3rd year of Family Medicine training. When applying for med school about 7 years ago (MCAT 28, 3.55 weighted GPA, 3.72 cumulative, 6 letters of rec, 200+ hrs of service, 3 years research, honors grad etc) I applied to the top DO schools and several of the average MD schools. I got interviews at MD schools and wait listed but no acceptances. If we’re talking honesty on this forum, a white male from middle class suburbia isn’t exactly an underrepresented demographic at most MD schools. My scores were average for an applicant overall, but I’ve seen other demographics with worse applications be accepted.

    I wasn’t willing to wait and reapply another year or more (as many MD applicants do) and chose a DO program closer to home. That has been the best decision of my career! The outlook on medicine going forward will place greater emphasis on primary care enrollment for patients, and will see shrinking pay for many other specialties (ask any general surgeon who’s been in practice for 15+ years). During my training I have seen that I am a great deal more comfortable treating musculoskeletal issues than my fellow MD residents, which issues comprise ~30% of my visits; and my MD colleagues often wished they had comparable OMT education in their schools because they have noticed the deficit in their training.

    It has been mentioned in other posts that students NEVER want a DO school as their first choice. This may be true in some cases, but certainly not all. It’s these types of people who perpetuate this ignorant stigma which is the reason prejudice still exists at schools such as Wash U, Mayo clinic, etc.

    What the individuals above conveniently forget to mention is that many people who carry the coveted MD in front of their name did so through foreign graduate programs which in many cases are less competitive and more expensive than DO programs. Perhaps you should ask yourself a question: if you are going to an FMG school just to have the MD title, is it really about being a doctor, or is it purely about your status? I have trained with some FMG’s that have definitely struggled in residency to the point where they had to decelerate and graduate later than their class. This is not to say, of course, that FMG’s always make poor physicians; this would be perpetuating the same type of prejudice; but in more cases than not people who go to these schools are less qualified than lower tiered DO applicant. I also know individuals that reapplied to stateside MD programs for five years, FIVE YEARS, before being accepted because he absolutely refused to go to a DO school. He could have completed med school and his intern year in this time. Would you as a patient prefer a doctor who had to reapply five times to med school just because they had to be an MD?

    The difference between practice modalities are narrowing. In my estimation the difference that existed even 20 years ago is virtually absent saving the musculoskeletal training, which any MD school could incorporate. It would be my hope that in the future both modalities could practice under the same title; because I really don’t care what comes after my name, whether DO or MD. What I care about is my patients, and that I have the most up to date knowledge and treatment skills available so that I may provide the best possibly care for them. If you think being an MD is going to make you a better doctor, you are deceiving yourself. If it’s entirely about you and your status, do your your future patients a favor and chose a different profession. It’s totally up to you what type of doctor you become, irrespective of your title.

    • Bryce Johnson November 1, 2015 at 1:03 am - Reply

      I think these points are all well taken, a word to the wise! Some tough decisions ahead as students begin hearing from med schools. Unless you’re at the top of your game and have perfect scores and a perfect resume (who does?), you would be wise to apply to at least one or two DO schools. You won’t necessarily be restricted to family practice, since there are specialty residencies offered to plenty of students at DO schools. It just lowers your competitiveness with other top contenders for the most sought-after spots. You can get competitive residencies, but the percentage of getting a match drop precipitously when you’re coming at it from the DO angle. There are advantages to going the DO route, many of them addressed in my post on DO vs MD. Check it out!

  25. hal blegen April 17, 2016 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    I would like to comment about DO and MD,,,,
    ,,,one thing that should be mentioned
    ,,after 2 years of DO or MD school,,,,,every medical student takes a test called USMLE step one,,
    ,,the score on this test is important for obtaining best residencies after graduation,,,
    ,,,many DO students do VERY well,,,,if fact some get in 90% or BETTER compared to MD students,,,,,overall the MD students do alittle better,,,,94 vs 89% pass approx,,,,,
    ,,,so who would you think would be better doctors?,,,,higher MCAT or higher USMLE test score students?
    ,,,,i happen to be in internal med doc, MD ,,,,my middle son goes to DO school,,,
    ,,he will do very well on USMLE,,,prob very high score
    ,,in my hospital there are 2 DO surgeons,,,,,one is also a vascular surgeon and i refer to them all time,,,,,they are really good surgeons
    ,,,in my call group of 5 there is a DO family practice doc who is also very good and i like him alot,,,,i didnt even know he was a DO for 5 years,,,
    ,,,also there is a new Physiatrist DO here that gave grand rounds to staff and was one best talks of year,,,,,i refer to her all time for consults on back pain and her consult notes that i get are really the best i have seen,,she does outstanding evaluation, assessment,,,and plan
    ,,so like it or not ,,,DO docs are here to stay and i have been very impressed with them,,,
    ,,also i have to say,,,,they are NICE people,,,,i cant say that about all the MDs i know,,,,
    ,,,thanks

    • Bryce Johnson April 29, 2016 at 1:01 am - Reply

      Thanks. Great perspective for all those fretting over the DO route!

  26. James June 1, 2016 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    One thing that I think others have failed to mention is addressing the GPA & MCAT score thoughts. While it is true that the average MCAT score & GPA are higher at a majority of MD schools, rather than at DO schools (you can look online at their websites to confirm this), there is a reason for that, and believe it or not, the reason is not “intelligence.” Frankly, GPA & MCAT scores only show a couple of things: (1) You’re a good test taker (2) you can study (3) and you work hard. Those are all good qualities, but are those the only qualities that you want your physician to have? What about someone who listens? What about someone who takes your view into concern? What about someone who believes there are more ways to treat you than pills & procedures? From my experience, an Osteopathic Physician (DO), while a physician who does prescribe pills & perform procedures, is more likely a physician to take the patients opinion into perspective, to look for alternate means of helping their patient (physical therapy, OMM, exercise, nutrition, sleep habits, stress, etc.) DO’s look at their patients’ relationships, their occupation, and all of the things that make the patient the person that they are. They get the whole picture, not just a snapshot of what is wrong today. If the osteopathic physician takes this kind of interest into the “whole person” while a patient, doesn’t it just make sense that osteopathic medical schools take that same kind of consideration when they look at their applicants? From my experience at a DO school, my fellow classmates came from a variety of different backgrounds, have different stories and some even different previous professions. They have hobbies, interests and things that truly make them unique. DO schools look at your GPA & MCAT, but those 2 pieces don’t show the whole applicant, and so they really are not the focus of what a DO school is looking for. So why are MCAT scores & GPA lower on average at a DO school compared to an MD school? Frankly, DO schools do not put as much emphasis on the calculated numbers of a person’s “intelligence” as they do on the “whole applicant” and what that applicant can bring to their program, class and future profession.

    • Bryce Johnson June 16, 2016 at 1:02 am - Reply

      James, I understand what you are trying to say, but to imply that DOs are better listeners, or treat patients more appropriately and broadly, does a disservice to both DOs and MDs. Let’s not overgeneralize. There are DOs and MDs who are great listeners, who have great relationships with their patients, who recommend treatment protocols for their patients including exercise, nutrition and stress relief; conversely, there are DOs and MDs who are insufficient in some of these areas, lacking personal qualities such as bedside manner, empathy, etc. It’s a fact that getting into MD schools requires higher MCAT scores and GPAs. Both DO and MD schools are looking for unique candidates who can offer more than just grades. (Why wouldn’t they?) Yet you are correct that there are students who choose DO because they want the specific training DO schools offer. There’s just no correlation for anything like what you are suggesting, that DO candidates are supremely better at certain skills or MD candidates’ abilities are as restricted as you have described. Both tracks can be profoundly satisfying to the same subset of medical school students, as much of what both DOs and MDs study is nearly identical. I’ve affiliated with many DOs and MDs, and never cared a whit about the plaque on their wall, but rather their knowledge and expertise, and their ability to deliver competent care. I’m certain that neither DOs nor MDs have the corner on any of those qualities.

  27. Poonam May 9, 2017 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    At least all DOs are US trained for sure.

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