Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a DO?

A: The osteopathic medical profession was established by Andrew Taylor Still, MD, DO, in Missouri in 1892. The practice of traditional medicine in the U.S. at that time was heavily influenced by methods and theories of practice, which are now antiquated and discredited. Dr. Still sought a new philosophy and approach to medicine that built upon the existing healthcare model and incorporated his newly developed principals of osteopathic care and osteopathic manipulative treatment. This became osteopathic medicine.

Today, there are two types of fully licensed physicians recognized by the U.S. federal government: the osteopathic physician, to whom a DO (Doctor of Osteopathy or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree is conferred, and the allopathic physician, to whom an MD (Doctor of Medicine) degree is conferred. DOs and MDs are eligible for medical licensure in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. All DOs and MDs must be licensed by the state licensing board to practice in that state. Licensure affords equivalent practice rights for DOs and MDs.

Whether physicians hold the DO or the MD qualification has no bearing on their rights and responsibilities in the practice of medicine. U.S.-trained DOs are accorded the same unlimited scope of practice as their counterparts,  the MDs, which include prescriptive rights, managed care contracts, surgery, the ability to employ the latest medical technologies, and staff privileges at hospitals and medical facilities. Osteopathic physicians are eligible for participation in and reimbursement from managed care companies and all state and federal government agencies and programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. Also, U.S.-trained DOs are eligible to prescribe all controlled substances (narcotic and non-narcotic) as designated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in its Schedule I, II, III, IV or V medicines.

While U.S.-trained DOs and MDs have many things in common, osteopathic medicine is a parallel branch of medicine with a distinct philosophy and approach to patient care. DOs practice a "whole person" approach to healthcare. Instead of just treating specific signs and symptoms, osteopathic physicians concentrate on treating their patients as a whole, including mind, body, and spirit.

Osteopathic physicians understand how all the body's systems are interconnected and how each one affects the others. They receive additional specialized training in the musculoskeletal system so that they better understand how that system influences the condition of all other body systems. DOs are also trained to identify and correct structural problems, which can assist the body's natural tendency toward health and self-healing.

As a component of their practices, DOs help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don't just fight illness, but also help prevent disease. Millions of patients prefer this concerned and compassionate care and have made DOs their physicians for life.