What’s the Difference Between an MD and a DO?

When you’re looking for a doctor, there are generally two main types of physicians you’ll find on your search– DO’s and MD’s. Although both groups are extremely qualified, trained medical professionals, with extensive means to treat their patients, there are some fundamental differences between them.

MDs, or Medical Doctors, focus more so on treating symptoms or conditions through prescribing medication, as well as by practicing surgical procedures. Additionally, MD doctors attend traditional medical schools, which usually focus more on disease management rather than prevention. By contrast, DO doctors concentrate more so on symptom prevention rather than management.

DOs, or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, tend to focus more on treatments that regard every aspect of their patient’s life. Like MDs, they are able to practice medicine, perform surgery, and prescribe medicine. They also take your physical, mental, social, and environmental well-being into consideration. DOs place much more emphasis on different methods of preventive care, as well as staying active, acupuncture, and personalized diets. They tend to discourage an overreliance on pharmaceutical drugs.

DO Doctors usually choose to practice primary care.

Almost 57% of DOs work in primary care. 31.4% work as family physicians, 18.1% are internists, and 6.89% work as pediatricians. Less than 30% of MD’s practice primary care specialties. 11.3% work as family physicians or general practice, 10.6% work as internists, and 6.8% work as pediatricians. For more information, the Association of American Medical Colleges has a detailed info table of DOs by specialty.

MDs and DOs undergo the same amount of education and training.

The difference is that MDs go to allopathic medical schools, whereas DOs go to osteopathic medical schools. Their training is virtually the same – one to two years of in class learning, and the rest of their training taking place in official, clinical settings. One notable difference in their education is that DOs spend much more time learning about the musculoskeletal system.

MDs and DOs  are becoming more and more similar by the day.

DOs are just as technically skilled as MDs, and many MDs have been incorporating non-medication solutions for years. This being said, DOs will still prescribe medication when necessary, so you shouldn’t expect a DO to solely rely on non-medication solutions. Despite their differences, DO and MD doctors both share a fundamental, dedicated commitment to providing high-quality healthcare, as well as ensuring the well-being of their patients and their quality of life.

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