Expert Health Articles

What is a DO?

When you go to see your doctor you may notice some letters following their name, but have you ever wondered what they mean? Physicians in the United States receive one of two degrees upon completion of medical school, either an MD or a DO. So, what is the difference?

Most people are familiar with a MD or Medical Doctor, but would you be surprised to know that nearly 1 in 4 current medical students is working toward their DO rather than an MD. A DO or Doctor of Osteopathic medicine is and alternative but equivalent degree to practice medicine in the United States. DOs are fully licensed physicians with the ability to practice medicine in any specialty. There is a very good chance you have seen a DO without even realizing it.

The profession of osteopathic medicine dates to the late 1800s when Andrew Taylor Still MD, DO broke from his fellow MDs with the idea that the body has an innate ability to heal itself if given the proper opportunity. This is where one of the key differences between MDs and DOs was born. During the first two years of medical school a DO will receive over 200 additional hours of training in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) and Osteopathic Principles and Practice (OPP).

OMM is the practice of manually manipulating the neuro-musculoskeletal system to help the body achieve and maintain proper mechanics and homeostasis. OMM is a broad term encompassing many techniques that can serve to improve musculoskeletal pain as well as help in the treatment of edema (swelling), ear pain, sinus infections and many other medical conditions. This is a very versatile and powerful tool that DOs possess in addition to the many benefits of modern medicine. These techniques allow the DO to look at a patient from a whole-body perspective rather than focusing on the primary complaint.

DOs have been and will continue to work alongside MDs in an effort to bring the best possible care to any and all patients.

Dr. Robert Puckett DO

Family Medicine, Carey Medical Center