Doctor of osteopathy (DO)

Doctors of osteopathy (DOs) are physicians who base diagnosis and treatment on the theory that the body's systems are interconnected, combining disease prevention and health maintenance with conventional medicine. DOs often use a treatment called manipulation or manual medicine, which is a hands-on approach that may include massage or pressure on an area of the body.

DOs can prescribe medicine, order medical tests, and perform surgery. They serve as primary care providers, provide care in hospital settings, and may become certified in a specialty, such as anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, or general surgery.

Before entering osteopathic medical school, a student generally must have completed a minimum of 3 years of preprofessional education in a college or university setting. Osteopathic doctors must then complete 4 years of medical education followed by an internship and residency program. Accreditation of colleges of osteopathic medicine is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Like MDs, DOs must pass a state medical board examination to obtain a license and enter practice. Each state board sets its own requirements and then issues the license for the osteopathic doctor to practice in that state. All states require licensure for osteopathic doctors.

Last Updated: February 3, 2010

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics

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