The majority of physicians in America are MDs (Doctor of Medicine), but a growing number of medical students are choosing to go the route of DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) instead. Many students are probably wondering what the differences are between the MD and the DO, and whether or not one is better than the other.
While the MD designation is probably the more familiar of the two, MDs and DOs share similarities in that they are both well-educated certified doctors. The difference is in their training and their approach to medical treatment. Doctors with an MD degree are trained in the practice of allopathic medicine. Allopathic is a term that refers to the treatment of illnesses or diseases through traditional science-based means, as opposed to homeopathy or what is commonly known as “alternative medicine.”
Doctors with a DO degree are often mischaracterized as doctors who prescribe alternative forms of medicine to their patients, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. DO doctors practice osteopathic medicine, a type of treatment that considers a person holistically and treats illnesses through manipulation and massage of a patient’s bones, muscles, and joints.
In a lot of ways, the journeys of MD and DO doctors are often the same. They both earn an undergraduate degree in which they complete their pre-med coursework, take the MCAT, and spend four years earning their medical degree. A residency program typically follows. MDs and DOs get their license from the same state licensing boards and are expected to adhere to the same medical practice requirements.
While traditional medical schools have usually only offered an MD, osteopathic medical schools are beginning to become more prevalent. According to the AACOM in 2017, 20% of the medical school students in America were getting their degrees from an osteopathic medical school. Students often find it easier to be admitted into osteopathic medical schools than traditional allopathic schools. DO students learn how to approach their patients with a more holistic view and with a focus on disease prevention. This often means looking comprehensively at the whole patient rather than just symptoms and partnering with the patient to encourage a healthy lifestyle that is more likely to lead to good health.
While schools that offer a DO aren’t as prevalent as schools that offer an MD, four schools listed below do offer combined direct medical (BS/DO) program.
Nova Southeastern University
Located in Florida, NSU offers both a seven-year and an eight-year BS/DO program. Students attend medical school at Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Applicants for the seven-year program must earn a weighted GPA of 3.5 in high school, receive a minimum composite ACT score of 30 or 1360 on the SAT, and have completed four years each of math, science, and English. Biology (or Anatomy and Physiology or Living Environment), Chemistry, and Pre-Calculus or Trigonometry are specific courses required to be completed in high school to be admitted to NSU. In addition, students must earn a cumulative GPA of 3.4, a science GPA of 3.4, and earn a minimum grade of C in all prerequisite courses. Students must receive a minimum MCAT score of 502 with a minimum of 125 on all subsections.
With the eight-year program, students earn their undergraduate degree in any field of their choosing before entering medical school. Admission requirements for the eight-year program are the same except students may have a minimum of 27 composite score on the ACT or 1270 on the SAT, and only three years of science in high school are required.
Massachusetts College Of Pharmacy And Health Science
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science in Boston, Massachusetts offers a combined BS/DO program with a four-year undergraduate focus on Premedical and Health Studies followed by a four-year course of study in osteopathic medicine from A.T. Still University in Kirksville, Missouri or a three or four-year course of study at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pennsylvania, or Bradenton, Florida. With either program, students will receive high-quality training in taking a total-person approach to treating patients and helping them to adopt an overall healthy lifestyle that aims to prevent major illnesses.
Applicants for the BS/DO program must complete the following prerequisite courses in high school: Algebra 1 and 2, Geometry, Biology and Chemistry, four years of English, and one year of history. Students are also encouraged, but not required, to complete four years of math up to Precalculus or Calculus and additional science courses, such as Anatomy and Physiology, Physics, AP Biology, or AP Chemistry. Applicants must also submit a letter of recommendation from a teacher or counselor and must submit a personal essay based on the topic provided on the application. Although MCPHS doesn’t list a minimum score for the ACT or the SAT, official tests scores are required to be sent directly from the College Board or ACT.
MCPHS also offers a combined BS/MD program for students who want to focus on a more traditional type of medical curriculum.
Pitzer College in Claremont, California offers a Joint Medical Program or BS/DO that allows students to complete their undergraduate coursework in three years before beginning their study of medicine at Western University of Health Sciences. During their four years in medical school, students will spend their first two years on campus, participating in lectures, laboratories, tutorials in small groups, and the opportunity to gain experience through hands-on supervised clinical interactions with standardized patients. Students will spend the second two years in the clinical phase of their coursework, rotating through a highly select group of area hospitals and being exposed to a wide range of patient care modalities and local conditions.
Pitzer is highly selective in the students who gain admission into the program. A joint Admission Committee only admits a maximum of six students each year. Students who are interested in applying should expect to demonstrate a highly challenging course load in high school combined with diligent work habits. Additionally, the Committee will be paying attention to how a student has contributed to his or her community. Program finalists must come for a day-long personal interview with the Committee. Any student applying must complete Pitzer’s Common Application and complete the Writing Supplement section which focuses on writing an essay that discusses the applicant’s interest in osteopathic medicine and why they would make a good candidate for the program. Applicants must also submit either their ACT score or their SAT score.
New York Institute Of Technology
At NYIT, students can earn their DO degree in seven years instead of the traditional eight years through the Life Sciences, BS/DO combined program. After completing their undergraduate coursework, qualified students may be admitted directly into the DO program in the College of Osteopathic Medicine where they will complete their DO in four years.
To be admitted to NYIT as a freshman, applicants must receive a combined minimum SAT score of 1270 or ACT score of 28, a minimum high school average of 90, two letters of recommendation, and a 300-350 word essay on their desire to work in osteopathic medicine.
The DO program is highly selective. To qualify, students must maintain a cumulative and semester GPA of 3.5 in the BS/DO program, receive an MCAT score within the median range of NYIT’s preceding College of Medicine class, submit favorable letters of recommendation from NYIT’s departmental BS/DO committee, and complete a supportive interview from the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine admissions committee.