A doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) is a physician with training that differs slightly from that of a physician with an M.D. The DO is equally educated with four years of undergraduate training, four years of medical school, and additional years if the DO chooses to specialize. The DO will also pass examinations that are almost identical to those taken by an MD, so their ability to practice medicine competently is equal to that of the MD. However, the DO has a slightly different approach to treating the patient than the MD.
The DO is trained to evaluate the person in a holistic manner. The goal of the DO is not simply to treat problems as they arise, but to prevent problems by evaluating the total health and health risks of the person. This evaluation may include examining quantifiable risk factors for disease and assessing the patient in terms of their home life, their stress level and their work life. Disease is evaluated in terms of how it affects the entire body, not simply a few parts of the body. In addition, Osteopathic physicians focus on preventative health care.
Furthermore, the DO is trained specifically in understanding the muscular and skeletal system and how this may relate to disease or pain management. Sometimes a DO will practice manipulation of the spine, similar to the work done by a chiropractor, in addition to other more traditional medical treatments.
A DO may practice any field of medicine such as psychiatry, surgery, pediatrics or obstetrics. As a result of the whole person approach to medicine, approximately 60% of all DOs choose to practice in the primary care disciplines including internal medicine and family practice. Approximately 40% of all DOs go on to specialize in a wide range of practice areas. If a medical specialty exists, you will find DOs there.
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