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Osteopathic Medicine

Choosing Osteopathic Medicine

There currently are 23 functioning osteopathic medical schools. The increasing popularity of osteopathic medical education is reflected in the fact that about six schools have opened over the past number of years, while no new allopathic schools opened in recent decades.

The question arises, why should premeds elect to apply to a DO-granting institution over a school awarding an MD degree? At least four reasons can be offered in response:

Easier admission. It is well known that gaining admission into medical school in general, and into allopathic schools in particular, is very challenging. It has been established that all the major parameters for admission, namely, GPA, science cumulative average, and MCAT scores are on average significantly lower for osteopathic applicants who are admitted. Also, older applicants stand a better chance of gaining admission into an allopathic school. Similarly, those with a strong interest in primary care as well as those coming from rural backgrounds are more likely to gain admission. With the popularity of osteopathic medical schools increasing, it is likely that it will become more difficult to secure admission as the number of applicants increase. More women have become applicants to DO-granting schools, to the point where they form about half of each entering class (as is the case in allopathic schools). Underrepresented minorities currently represent less than 9% of the total student body of osteopathic schools.

Role model. One of the strong influences on career choices of young people are older role models. They can impact not only on their choice of a medical career, but also can influence even the selection of a specific specialty. Thus, students can be profoundly influenced by contacts with DOs at some point in their lives. Contact with an osteopathic physician is essential when applying for admission, since a letter from such a professional is usually a requirement for admission.

Primary care focus. The basic philosophical concept of osteopathy and the focus of its education has always been on treating the whole patient rather than concentrating only on the disease. This longstanding view has been incorporated in the allopathic medical specialty of family practice. Consequently, about half of osteopathic medical school graduates end up basically as old-fashioned GPs, while for allopathic school graduates the number is merely 15%. Nevertheless, half of all DOs do seek specialty training and osteopathic specialty organizations exist (see Appendix E). Thus, for those whose convictions about the value of primary care is strong, their attraction to osteopathy is understandable, and the basis of their motivation is obvious.

Manipulative therapy. This therapeutic approach is a unique feature of osteopathy. It stems from the firmly held conviction that the musculoskeletal system is the key to the disease process. Thus osteopathic manipulative therapy, when applied to the vertebral column to relieve pain, can be quite effective, and thus may be of special appeal to some individuals, helping motivate them toward a career as an osteopathic physician.

It should be noted, however, that in nonprimary care osteopathic residencies (as, obviously, in allopathic ones), musculoskeletal therapy is not considered a first-line therapeutic approach. As a matter of fact, some in the osteopathic profession advocate doing away with this approach entirely, so the lines between both branches of medicine, while already blurred, would be eliminated. Therefore, interest in this unique form of therapy should not be the sole motivation for anyone choosing osteopathy, although it can be an ancillary one.

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesGuide to Medical & Dental SchoolsOsteopathic Medicine - Basic Philosophy, Choosing Osteopathic Medicine, Osteopathic Education, Training, And Certification, Educational Data