Osteopathic Family Physicians
Andrew Taylor Still (founder)
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)
Medicine · US Medical education
Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine
AOA · AACOM · AAO · COMLEX
MD & DO Comparison
Specialty Colleges · AOA BOS
Osteopathic medicine is a branch of the medical profession in the United States. Osteopathic physicians (D.O.) are licensed to practice medicine and surgery in all 50 states and are recognized in fifty-five other countries, including all Canadian provinces.
Frontier physician Andrew Taylor Still founded the profession as a radical rejection of the prevailing system of medical thought of the 19th century. Still's techniques relied heavily on the manipulation of joints and bones to diagnose and treat illness, and he called his practices "osteopathy". By the middle of the 20th century, the profession had moved closer to mainstream medicine, adopting modern public health and biomedical principles. American "osteopaths" became "osteopathic physicians", gradually achieving full practice rights as medical doctors in all 50 states, including serving in the U.S. armed forces as physicians.
In the 21st century, the training of osteopathic physicians in the United States is very similar to that of their M.D. counterparts. Osteopathic physicians attend four years of medical school followed by at least three years of residency. They use all conventional methods of diagnosis and treatment. Though still trained in Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM), the modern derivative of Still's techniques, a minority of osteopathic physicians use it in actual practice.
Osteopathic medicine is considered by some in the United States to be both a profession and a social movement, especially for its historically greater emphasis on primary care and holistic health. However, any distinction between the M.D. and the D.O. professions has eroded steadily; diminishing numbers of D.O. graduates enter primary care fields, fewer use OMM, holistic patient care models are increasingly taught at M.D. schools, and increasing numbers of osteopathic graduates choose to train in non-osteopathic residency programs.
Discussions about the future of osteopathic medicine frequently debate the utility of maintaining a separate, distinct pathway for educating physicians in the United States. Studies have repeatedly shown that many recent osteopathic medical graduates are either uninterested in or reluctant to embrace an identity distinct from their M.D. counterparts. There has been a rapid expansion in the number and size of schools and some have raised questions as to the quality of education at certain newer private osteopathic medical schools. A contentious topic has been for-profit medical education, which osteopathic accreditors permit.
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