In 1874, Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., began the field that he called osteopathy and which is now known as osteopathic medicine. Dr. Still's motivation for beginning the new field (in which the physician has the Doctor of Osteopathy degree or D.O.) was concern about the extensive use at the time of questionable medical practices and treatments. He developed osteopathy as a method of treatment that emphasized the musculoskeletal system and the human patient as a complete entity. Today, qualifications for licensure for M.D.’s and D.O.’s are the same in all 50 states. Residency programs are available to D.O. graduates under the auspices of either the American Osteopathic Association or the American Medical Association (about 50% of DO graduates go into MD residencies in a typical year); D.O.’s can take both M.D. and D.O. examinations for board certification, but M.D.’s can take only the M.D. board exams. The major distinction between the D.O. and M.D. is that a D.O. receives specialized training in the treatment method known as manipulation that was pioneered by Dr. Still, in addition to core medical training common to all physicians, both D.O. and M.D. Typically, an osteopathic physician spends four years in medical school, one year in a rotating internship and two to six years in residency training. They use all scientifically accepted methods of diagnosis and treatment, including the use of drugs and surgery. D.O.'s can specialize in the same areas as M.D.'s, but a much greater percentage enter general practice and those specialties involved in primary care (family practice, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, and internal medicine). The emphasis that the profession places upon primary care bodes well for the future. Medical policy-making organizations such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agree that primary care is the area of greatest medical need, now and in the foreseeable future. Allopathic (M.D.) and osteopathic (D.O.) medicine continue to move closer together in modes of practice and philosophy. Increasingly, D.O.s and M.D.s are finding themselves as collaborators in joint practices or working together in hospital settings but osteopathic medicine will continue to retain those aspects of training, modes of practice and philosophy that make it unique.
There are 66,151 practicing osteopaths in the United States. Most of them received their training at one of the twenty-six colleges of osteopathic medicine here (four of the schools have branch campuses in addition to their main locations). These schools have a total enrollment of approximately 20,700; they accept 5,788 new students each year; women represent about 50% of the total enrollment; under represented minorities make up 9% of the total enrollment. More than 45% of osteopathic medical students come from small towns of less than 50,000 people or medically underserved areas of large cities; 40% of osteopathic medical students plan to locate their practices in similar communities. About 30% of graduating seniors go on to a traditional osteopathic one-year rotating internship; the others enter residency programs directly. Average student indebtedness at time of graduation in 2011 was $ 207,317. Graduates of osteopathic medical schools in 2011 expected to have a net income of $ 164,964 during their first year of practice and to have net incomes of $ 276,993 ten years later. There were 15,176 applicants for admission to colleges of osteopathic medicine in 2011; each applicant applied to an average of 8 schools. Admission requirements are the same as for schools of allopathic medicine; all the required courses are available at Oglethorpe University. For further information, contact the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine on the web at http://www.aacom.org. The Georgia Osteopathic Medical Association (http://www.goma.org) and the American Osteopathic Association (http://www.osteopathic.org) are good sources of information also as is Explore Health Careers (http://www.explorehealthcareers.org). Dr. Dan Schadler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the pre-med advisor at Oglethorpe University and is prepared to assist you.