What Is The Difference Between A DO and a MD?

What Is The Difference Between A DO and a MD?

When trying to find a doctor, people often ask, “What is the difference between and MD and a DO?” The truth is there really isn’t that much of a difference. Both types of doctors receive similar types of training and become certified to practice medicine. The main difference in who they are or what they are is in their philosophy in regards to how they seek to treat their patients. DO’s typically choose to highlight health promotion and disease prevention in their practice.

What do MD and DO mean?

  • an MD is a “Doctor of Medicine” also referred to as an allopathic physician this is the most common type of degree sought after by those who wish to practice medicine in the U.S.
  • a DO is a “Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine” DO’s choose to instead focus on the entire body when making a diagnosis and receive additional training when it comes to musculoskeletal systems in the body.

Both types of doctors attend medical school and require testing to become certified to practice medicine, and both types of doctors can treat disease and prescribe medication, but MD’s outnumber DO’s 9 to 1 in the U.S. Both types of certifications allow for the individual to follow any type of specialty that they wish, but typically DO’s focus on pediatrics, family, or internal medicine so that they can take a more holistic approach when it comes to treating their patients.


Dr. Andrew Taylor Still is the founding father of Osteopathic Medicine and began concentrating on new techniques to treat his patients. He understood that the typical practices of the day were causing more harm to those who were being treated than good. He started to promote the idea that the body, given the right elements could heal itself, and dubbed the system osteopathy, which is now referred to as osteopathic medicine.

DO’s or osteopathic physicians, work in conjunction with their patient to promote healthier lifestyle choices, and believe the way a person lives and the community in which they live can have an impact on the level of health that a person can achieve. DO’s carry a similar type of licensing as an MD, and can practice medicine in all 50 states working in many different settings including civilian or military and with different types of specialties.

Core Values

The training which DO’s receive differs from the MD training by stepping back and viewing the person as a whole. While MD’s typically look at the individual systems in the body which may become diseased, DO’s like to take a more holistic approach and learn to incorporate the entire being when diagnosing and treating a patient.

Furthermore when attending their training they receive 200 additional in-depth hours of training that specifically relate to the art of osteopathic manipulative medicine. These methods  of hands-on treatments promote the reduction of pain, increase the flexibility and range of motion, and promotes the body to work in a more proficient manner.

DO’s are rooted in providing high-quality patient care. The predominant purpose is to produce primary care physicians, and many of the schools in the Osteopathic Medical Community carry a mission statement which plainly states just that. They believe that when a doctor is rooted in primary carre that they will have the foundation needed to be a better doctor.


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