Doctor of Medicine vs. Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
A doctor of medicine, most often referred to as a Medical Doctor or MD, and a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, or DO are both licensed physicians. In addition, both are trained in medicine with some slight differences, but each have a unique perspective or outlook on care for their patients. Some physicians can be both an MD and a DO as well, though most personal care physicians are DO's.
From the perspective of the DO, they see and treat the body overall, as a whole, integrated, rather than treating a person's specific symptoms. On the other hand, an MD will see and treat the disease or an illnesses symptoms using medicines or other drugs, and then if necessary, surgery.
Though, the education for both degrees are similar, the emphasis for a DO program is on primary care and the whole person. DO's also must take additional classes related to the body's skeletal system and the interaction of the body with diseases. Generally speaking, though, both are well-educated and spend nearly the same amount time in preparation for their career. Medical schools, however, involve more memorization, whereas for a DO, there is more hands-on learning. Some say that it may have been easier to be admitted to a DO school rather than a medical school, especially in the past.
Here is an example of how an MD and DO would treat someone who discovers they have blood pressure. The MD would discover the symptoms, treat the symptoms with a medication, which would be prescribed for the patient. The medication would be expected to effectively to lower the patient's blood pressure.
On the other hand, the DO would initially know more about the patient. The DO would try to find out what may be causing the high blood pressure, and may not immediately prescribe a medicine for the problem. The DO may ask the patient several questions before choosing a path to a possible recovery. The DO may first have the patient try several alternatives to lower the blood pressure, and if they were not effective, the DO would prescribe the medication for lowering the blood pressure.
As you can see, the DO places the emphasis on the patient, knowing his lifestyle, family, and unique concerns, which all help guide the decisions the DO makes about the medical treatments for the patient.
DO's also are more physically hands-on than an MD, using their hands for manipulation to improve circulation in the body, which may create a normal nerve and blood supply enabling the body to heal itself. For example, a person with a migraine headache may receive medication from a MD to treat the pain, but the DO may try manipulating the person's neck to help relieve the headache.
Finally, an MD usually spends less time with each patient versus a DO. The DO spends extra time to get to know the patient and their needs. Many patients complain about their MD being too busy to spend time with them and their medical issues.
In summary, most patients who go to a physician will not notice much of a difference in the ultimate medical care received by a Doctor of Medicine or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. However, the major difference may be their philosophy related to the methods and duties of a doctor.
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