M.D. vs D.O. the D.O. stigma

Hello all,

I am new to the site. I am 32 yo and will be applying to med school this summer. I am trying to decide on whether to become a D.O. or a M.D. I would say I have more in common with treating the person, and not just the symptoms or disease, but hear of the negative stigma attached to the D.O. title and it makes me nervous. I was just curious if anyone has any data or experience with the D.O. stigma, where it may have limited a doctors options.


I havent heard much negative stigma about D.O. I’ve been shadowing a DO and this is one of the things that we briefly talked about. The world of DO seems to be gaining more and more momentum and it’s practices are becoming more accepted.

As with any “new kid on the block” scenario, people will judge. And make harsh judgments especially when they dont understand. Yes, I think that is called ignorance.

Nevertheless, DO and MD have very different medical approaches as you already know. But Im not sure what you mean by “limiting a doctors options.”

In fact, I’m shadowing both an MD and a DO so I can get first hand experience from both angles. I noticed a difference immediately. The DO situation was expremely relaxed…the Dr. was not even wearing a lab coat, the patient came in with his case worker and the conversation was much more informal. In fact, during the patients visit, the dr took some time to explain to me directly what was going on and even involve me in the conversation.

When I shadow the MD, the formality multiplies. I’m not saying one is “better” than the other, there are just large differences between medical approaches and treatments.

Nevertheless, dont worry about the so called negative stima that is floating around in the MD v.s DO world. Do research on the various programs and see which you think would suit you better.

Good luck

I agree with Putnam that much of the negativity surrounding DO’s in the public has been decreasing. I have heard that you will find geographic pockets where this is not true, mostly because there are no DO schools in the area so people are less familiar with them.

I would disagree to a large degree on the characterization represented in Putnam’s experience that somehow DO’s are more personable and have better relationships with their patients compared with MD’s. I would say the vast majority of MD’s I work with follow the model described of the shadowed DO. There are clearly people who have these skills in both fields and I do not believe one field to be superior to the other in this area.

DO will give you an additional modality of care for your patients. That being said, of all the DO’s I’ve worked with (easily over 50) only one actually does any OMT, and that perhaps happens with one patient weekly. This is a small sampling of DO’s, however, and perhaps in other regions of the country it is different.

Just my two cents!

  • putnam2800 Said:
The DO situation was expremely relaxed...the Dr. was not even wearing a lab coat, the patient came in with his case worker and the conversation was much more informal. In fact, during the patients visit, the dr took some time to explain to me directly what was going on and even involve me in the conversation.

When I shadow the MD, the formality multiplies.

In terms of formality and bedside manner, these are personal differences. They don't in any way reflect the degree one earns and have little to do with where she/he went to school. My MD neurosurgeon wears jeans and t-shirts in the office, and I once worked with a DO who cursed at homeless patients and threw charts at nurses. I have classmates who always wear ties to lecture and others who wear shorts with their white coats.

The fact is, allopathic schools have adopted the holistic approach, and osteo schools have acquiesced to teaching pharmacology. DOs are increasingly entering specialty fields while MDs claim a growing share of IM residencies. There just isn't much tangible difference anymore.

So, before you make your decision on some historical yet extinct assumption or prejudice, consider the possibility of applying to both. Then, depending on where you interview, you may have the option of choosing based on the merits of individual institutions.

In my “comparison” between MD and DO, I was only sharing my personal experiences and was in no way generalizing between the worlds of MD and DO as a whole. I had thought my post made that quite clear.

Stigma? You mean there’s a stigma attached to D.O.'s …maybe I should splash on more aftershave…oh, wait, you said Stigma…cancel the aftershave…

Seriously…I have not noticed any sort of stigma attached to being a D.O. student and 98 days away from being a D.O…Now I have heard it mentioned that one particular IM program just flat out didn’t take D.O.'s and in the same breath the attending who mentioned it (who was an M.D. by the way) told me that I was good enough to make it into that program…and it wasn’t his own IM program (so I took it as a kind of left handed complement)…

That’s all I’ve heard about here in the US. Some countries have D.O.'s that are bonesetters and you have to emphasize that you’re a US D.O. before you’ll get practice rights for mission trips or have an M.D. along…

For me, there was a speech given by the former Dean of TCOM at an open house about where osteopathy derived it’s roots and it’s progression as field of medicine. When I heard that, the decision was made. Being a D.O. is where I fit…

Having said that, my M.D. colleagues are just that…my colleagues. If anyone has a problem with me being a D.O. that’s their issue, not mine.

There’s too many sick people needing help to be worrying about this anyway…

I NEVER heard of DO stigma till I started watching this site. Everyone that I know who sees a D.O. loves them. I know two ER docs that are D.O.'s and among their group the MD was unaware of difference in education (besides the manipulation part), just in their letters.

I must say that in my line of work there is often a much greater stigma to being an M.D., which is attributed partly to certain patients dislike and distrust of the “medical establishment”. While Portland seems to have fewer D.O.'s than some places, all the ones I know are very popular and well respected. My wife works for Kaiser Permanente, and they actually have a “D.O. waiting list”, as all of their existing osteopathic physicians are closed to new patients, causing a wait while they recruit new ones. That doesn’t sound like much of a stigma to me!

I have a wonderful D.O. and he is the best PC I’ve ever had - very warm, thorough and takes the time to explain everything. Not to mention the occasional “adjustment” of my lower body which seems to have a mind of its own. I was stunned at the results the first time he did it - it felt great and the effects lasted for months. I could use a serious adjustment right now infact, but as it turns out he’s on Sick Leave himself!!

A couple of comments… not that I would be at all biased … I don’t see the stigma at all. I ertain would encourage you to understand the DO philosophy and would not persue that route if you do not agree with A. T. Still and his approach to medicine. However we are NOT a new kid on the block – Osteopathy has been recognized profession for well over 100 years.

as to specialties-- I routinely refer to a DO orthopedist and Neurologist i my local area.

Our strength though is in Prmary care. aprox 60 percent of DO school graduates go into one of the primary care specialties. Combine this with the fact that DO schools are increasing in numbers much more rapidly than MD programs, and you will see a disproportionate number of DO’s as PCP’s -

The only reason I can see NOT to consider a DO program, aside from not believing in the approach, is if you are strongly interested in practicing outside of the US. The profession is not widely accepted outside of the United states.

good luck with your quest