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Straight talk about your healthcare.


Doctor Dilemma: MD or DO?

Doctor Dilemma: MD or DO?

Physicians are a staple in the world of healthcare. During their many years of education, medical students are exposed to a multitude of specialties and a myriad of patients. Once physicians complete their training, they go out into the world and practice their profession. And we, as patients, line up to see them.


  • While in their Bachelor degree program, the potential medical student must take an entrance exam called the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Admission into medical school is primarily based on this score
  • Medical school is a four year program: the first two years focus on book and lab studies. In the second two years, medical students are introduced to patient care through the many specialty areas
  • Upon graduation from medical school, the students must pass an exam before they are called “Doctor


Following medical school, the new physician attends a Residency program that focuses on their chosen specialty. Examples of Residency programs include Dermatology (skin), Orthopedics (bones, joints, and ligaments), and Psychiatry (mental health).

·         An Intern refers to a new doctor in their first year of Residency, also called the Internship

·         A Resident refers to any physician in their Residency program

Once the physician has completed the Residency program and passes the certification test specific to that specialty, they are considered Board Certified in that field of medicine.


Following Residency, the physician may then begin their medical practice or choose to focus on a more highly specific area of medicine by attending a “Fellowship” program, where they are known as “Fellows”. This takes an additional one to three years of study. Examples of Fellowship programs include Cardiology (heart specialist), Infectious Disease (specialist in treating uncommon and complicated infections), and Nephrology (kidney specialist).


There are two types of physicians - the Medical Doctor (MD) and the Doctor of Osteopathy (DO). Both types of providers: 

·         Graduate with a Bachelor degree before attending medical school

·         Must take the same test to get into their medical school programs – the Medical College Admissions Test 

·         Attend their respective schools of medicine

·         Must pass their respective examinations after completing medical school

·         Attend Residency and Fellowship programs

DOs, in addition, are trained in osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) – the placement of hands on the body to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury by using stretching, gentle pressure, and resistance techniques.

To answer the question, there is no difference between the Medical Doctor and Doctor of Osteopathy. Learn more about physicians and other healthcare providers in my book, The Practical Patient.

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