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Osteopathic Physician
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  Who is an Osteopathic Physician?

An Osteopathic Physician is a physician who has received a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree in the United States. Osteopathic medical practice in the United States is in many ways identical to the more common allopathic practice of physicians who are awarded the Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree.

  What does an Osteopathic Physician do?

Osteopathic Physicians practice medicine in the same comprehensive range of medical and surgical specialties and subspecialties as their allopathic physician colleagues. In hospitals and other clinical settings, Osteopathic Physicians and allopathic physicians function identically. Expectations of them and their assigned level of responsibility correspond with their level of GME training rather than the title of their undergraduate medical degree.

  What education, training, and experience must one have to function as an Osteopathic Physician?

Osteopathic Physicians must be graduates of osteopathic medical schools that are accredited by the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation of the American Osteopathic Association. The curriculum of study is four years and is very similar to allopathic medical schools. However, osteopathic medicine places special emphasis on osteopathic manipulative treatment (O.M.T.) for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders; this training has a prominent role in the osteopathic medical curriculum. Additionally, osteopathic principles emphasize prevention as well as holistic and patient-centered concepts.

After graduation from an osteopathic medical school, Osteopathic Physicians pursue GME. Osteopathic Physicians may apply for and obtain positions in osteopathic GME programs accredited by the American Osteopathic Association, allopathic GME programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, or programs with dual accreditation.

  How and by whom is an Osteopathic Physician supervised?

Osteopathic Physicians in GME programs are supervised by senior resident physicians and attending physician faculty. At the GME level, the MD degree and the DO degree are considered equivalent. Supervising attending physicians and senior residents may also be either MDs or DOs.

  What are the typical day-to-day activities of an Osteopathic Physician?

The daily activities of Osteopathic Physicians are essentially identical to the activities of their allopathic physician counterparts. As residents, Osteopathic Physicians perform the same general tasks as resident allopathic physicians. The same is true at the attending physician level and in continuing medical practice.

In contrast to allopathic physicians, Osteopathic Physicians may spend part of their practice activity performing O.M.T. on patients. The Osteopathic Physician’s focus will typically incorporate osteopathic principles in patient care, though this may not always be evident to observers.

  Must an Osteopathic Physician be licensed or certified to function in his or her role as part of the health care team?

Osteopathic Physicians must be licensed by the state or jurisdiction in which they practice. The primary pathway to licensure for osteopathic physicians is the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA), which is an examination sequence similar to the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) required of allopathic physicians. Many states have a single medical licensing board that licenses both allopathic and Osteopathic Physicians, while others have separate allopathic and osteopathic licensing boards.

Osteopathic Physicians who successfully complete osteopathic GME programs are eligible for specialty certification by the corresponding osteopathic specialty board. Those who successfully complete allopathic GME programs are eligible for board certification by the appropriate American Board of Medical Specialties member specialty board.

Osteopathic GME programs only accept graduates of osteopathic medical schools accredited by the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation; graduates of international medical schools are not eligible to enter these programs.

  What types of patients would benefit from the care of an Osteopathic Physician?

Since Osteopathic Physicians practice comprehensive medical care in a similar manner to allopathic physicians, any patient may benefit from their care. Patients with certain musculoskeletal disorders may particularly benefit from the Osteopathic Physician’s O.M.T. skills.

  How and when does an Osteopathic Physician become involved in the care of a particular patient?

How and when does an Osteopathic Physician become involved in the care of a particular patient? Osteopathic Physicians in training are assigned patients just as their allopathic colleagues are. In practice, patients may select an Osteopathic Physician as their primary care doctor or for specialty care.

  Professional organization for Osteopathic Physicians:

Contributed by:
John R. Gimpel, DO, MEd, National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners

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