osteopathic versus allopathic

Hi all - I was wondering if any of you might take the time to educate me on the differences between these two paths. I know the obvious difference between the two philosphies but I would be very interested in learning the details and personal stories involved in individual's decisions to choose one path over the other.
Many thanks,


From the last year of reading and spending some time with both types of physicians, there really isn’t to much difference once you’re in practice unless you choose to practice mainly with manipulation.
However, it is my understanding that school will be different. From what I have read (and even obeserved during an interview this year) your first two years in DO school will give you a much better understanding of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. They spend more time and greater depth on those systems since they are very interrelated with manipulation. A DO I recently spoke with told me that you will get much more hands on earlier with a DO school. But, several of the schools I’m applying to this year claim to have patient exposure much earlier. Hopefully Natalie or Dave can shead some light on this area. ???
A DO school is more interested in the entire patient and not only or specifically the disease or pathology in question. Where as many medical school are more focused on research. You should ask your heart where your interest lies. That may help you in your decision to which path to choose. But, it would be very wise to apply to both programs and see whose interested and broaden your chances of entry.
While I already have a great understanding of manipulation and its benefits I still intend to apply to both. While I hope to get into DO school because it more closely alines itself with my philosophy of patient care.
The only thing I can offer is that the path to residency may, I stress may be a little harder. Some of the Ivy league school still have som problems with a DO degree, but in today’s changing healthcare environment that to is changing. Hope this helps!
Doug :)

I sounds like the distinction between osteopathic and allopathic schools is becoming more and more blurred. I don't really have any exposure to the DO experience other than what I read on the OPM/SDN forums but it seems like every time I see someone expounding on the virtues of the DO philosophy it sounds to me like they are describing my school. We started seeing patients from the first week of the first year, they strongly emphasize that the patient always be seen a whole person rather than just an illness. And in the most recent USNEWS (not that rankings matter) we were ranked 17 in research and 19 in primary care.
That seems to be the trend at a lot of other allopathic schools.

Man…you could write veritible novels on this topic! It seems that somewhere in these forums I posted a fairly lengthy reply to a similar question…I’ll be darned if I know where it is/was though…so, I’ll try to give you the “nutshell” version. If this proves inadequate, I’ll be happy to flesh it out…or find the post I referred to!
First, the philosophies: to truly address & understand this, you need some history. However, since this is the “nutshell” version…> 25+ years ago, the “humanistic” or “holistic” focus was essentially unique to DOs. Back then, allopathic institutions focused on producing more of the “medical scientist [egghead] who also happened to do patient care” [Bare with me as I am painting in very broad & generalized strokes]
Honestly, this is no longer the case. As DOs sought to become more mainstream and solidify full practice rights in all 50 states & MDs desired to incorporate a more 'People centered" focus into their training – we’ve now reached a point where many MD schools are as, if not more, ‘touchy-feely’ than some DO schools. Believe me, I thought KCOM epitomized “touchy-feely” until I learned more about the MSU-CHM (MD school) curriculum…they beat us hands down!
At the root of it all, anything an MD can do; so can a DO. If you look at the demographics of the individual specialties & subspecialties…for virtually all of them, DOs comprise about 5%…and, overall, DOs comprise about 5% of practicing physicians. You will see some regional variability, for example, DOs are far less common in the big western states and upper west coast. Until the last 5 or 6 years, they were pretty scarce in the Old South as well. But, in both cases, DO numbers are steadily rising there…and with it, the old & erroneous misperceptions are coming down as well. In states such as MI, OH, PA & MO – you can’t even through a stick without hitting a DO! In MI, I think DOs are in excess of 20% of all physicians.
The MDs & DOs I have talked with this sort of thing with find it immensley humorous/disturbing/sad that any sort of disparity even exists elsewhere in the country. I am frequently asked by my MD preceptors to help them hone their OMM skills – they’ve learned certain things and want to know about other applications.
Much of the recent publicity & the grass roots “AOA Unity Campaign” (in my humble opinion) currently being pressed by the AOA (Amer Osteopathic Assoc) is a product of fear. Back in the 40s/50s/60s, when DOs had not had full practice rights all that long, the AMA saw the rising numbers of DOs as a threat…this was in a time when there were no battles with legitimate threat such as: 3rd party payers, mid-level providers or starving lawyers to focus upon…the AMA tried to assimilate DOs into their folds. The AMA offered to all DOs the capacity to convert thier degree into an MD for $50…somehow this was blocked in all states except CA. There, many DOs bought their MDs and the 1 CA DO school quit giving the DO and became an MD school. If I am not mistaken, that school is now the UC-Davis School of Medicine.
To say the least, that pissed a few folks off…and within the old & hard-core DO sect, the “CA Crisis” still runs chills of fear up & down their rotated & sidebent spines – yes, we had more than 1 presentation on the ‘CA Crisis’ and warned how there are still MDs out there who wish to assimilate DOs into the AMA and thereby end the existance of DOs, b;ah, blah, blah. No, these were not part of our educational lectures, but as in all med schools, you have multiple sponsored & guest lectures and these sorts of talks occured then – much to the chagrin of 99.9% of my classmates…we just saw them as embittered old crones who couldn’t let go of the past.
Anyhow, now that the stage is set…in my humble opinion…the reason the AOA pushes silly ads like “we treat people and not just symptoms” and is realy pushing the uniqueness of OMM through the “Unity” campaign is to substantiate two juxtaposed points: #1) the DOs are just like MDs in their training and are complete physicians – which is very very true & #2) that DOs are sufficiently unique (even though they emphasized how similar DOs are for point #1) that DOs should remain an entity all their own – this is the point in question.
Long & short of it, a significant portion of the AOA leadership, the old-guard & hard-core DOs still see ‘snakes under all rocks’ and just “know” the AMA is out to absorb DOs. In the last 25 years, this mindset had been steadily diminishing. However, in the last few years, it suddenly dawned on the aforementioned, out-of-touch alleged leadership how close we (MDs & DOs) had actually become & so started the stringent focus on how similar but different MDs & DOs are. As the “Old Guard” become too old to engage in politics, I expect this rediculous midset to die away – as the overwhelming majority of the DOs circa my age are of a very collegial mindset…just as the MDs are. I see this as the last gasp of the paranoid crones…
Does this help? Now, I must admit, this is MY INTERPRETATION…I am not a fortune teller (I do have ESPN though) and my own bias is irretrievably injected into the above explanation.
Realistically, in the next 20 years, I would be severely surprised to not see the continued coming together of MDs & DOs to the point of consolidation of the two…probably even a unified degree. Again, that is my opinion…but one held by many of my peers & colleagues.

thanks to all for taking the time to respond to my original post - this is, indeed, a wonderful forum in which to learn from one's peers.
i have another related question… is it harder to find internships and jobs as a DO? are there any differences between the two branches and job security? etc…

No, it is not harder to find internships or jobs nor is there any difference in pay or job security b/t MDs & DOs. In fact, legally, to pay differently or to release a physician because they are a DO is defined as an act of discrimination and will likely end up with the employer in a court room. Legally, MDs & DOs are equivolent…period. All rights & priviledges due one is also due the other.
As a DO, you are able to undertake either an AOA (DO) internship &/or residency &/or fellowship or an ACGME (MD) internship &/or residency &/or fellowship. MDs are only eligible to train through the ACGME. However, in my humble opinion, this senseless barrier to MDs training through the AOA will come down w/i the next 15 or so years.