Doctors In America
Allopathic Physicians and Osteopathic Physicians are both doctors in America. Both can prescribe medicine, perform surgery, and must pass similar exams to practice medicine. Most patients do not know the differences between MDs and DOs, but there is an additional skill Osteopathic Students learn in medical school – Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (OMT).
This training strengthens our palpatory skills and offers another option for diagnosing and treating certain health issues. When I decided to follow the pre-med path, my goal was to become a physician. Becoming a DO will allow me to continue my journey.
My Pre-med Story
I am halfway through my first-year at an Osteopathic Medical School and couldn’t be happier with my decision. I chose to attend a DO school primarily due to 3 reasons: my pre-med experiences, the quality of education offered by the medical school, and my future career possibilities.
In high school, I joined the U.S. Army Reserves, which is where my interest in medicine first sparked. After completing my training, I returned home and enrolled in college. My military obligation was part-time; I reported to duty one weekend a month and at least a couple of weeks each summer. This schedule permitted me to attend college regularly, but I committed to the pre-med track later than most.
Junior year, I started freshmen chemistry and was introduced to both Allopathic and Osteopathic options for medical training. My pre-med advisor provided me a checklist of experiences and accomplishments I needed to apply to either programs.
How can anyone know medicine is their calling without at least observing a clinician in action? I started pursuing experiences that allowed me to see doctors interacting with patients. Some experiences were the traditional shadowing, research, and listening to pre-med club hosted speakers. My job as a medical assistant was my most influential pre-med experience. I worked for an endocrinologist trained in Osteopathy. The office provided support for patients struggling with diabetes, thyroid issues, or other hormonal imbalances. As a staff,we battled a constantly full waiting room and addressed patients’ concerns. I updated medical records, interacted with almost every patient, and provided administrative support. I also assisted the doctor as he biopsied thyroid nodules. Most of our patients would express their gratitude because the doctor truly offered them his best. My year-long employment illustrated the fact that the “D.O.” title did not limit the doctor’s ability to provide patients with the care they needed.
Choosing My Medical School
During the application cycle, I interviewed at one MD and three DO programs before receiving an acceptance and committing to the school that met my preferences.
At each interview, I asked myself a few questions that helped me determine if I would be happy attending as a student. I considered my interactions with first-years, other interviewees, and professors/clinicians. I was especially attracted to the diverse perspective among the professors teaching at this school: MDs, DOs, PhDs, PharmDs, JDs.
The environment and culture of the medical school was another factor that helped me choose. I wanted to attend a medical school that fit my personality and offered me the best opportunity to learn, by seeing and working with real patients earlier than most.
My medical school has a unique curriculum, I will begin to see patients as a second-year medical student in an urban location, and it’s a city where I hope to start my medical career.
Future Career Opportunities
Considering the DO Option
Pursuing an Osteopathic Degree does have its challenges. They are relatively expensive, research opportunities are limited, and there is a (disappearing) stigma against DOs. I have often heard it is easier to secure acceptance to an Osteopathic Medical School. The average GPA and MCAT scores for matriculants are lower for osteopathic schools compared to allopathic schools, but I believe the average MCAT and GPA will continue to rise.
But every pre-med student should know that becoming a doctor requires much more than grades. Dr. Stephen Shannon DO MPH, President of the AACOM, shared his observation of the DO applicant pool nearly doubling within the last ten years. While DO schools may be a backup for some students, it was not for me. I believe many students will continue to apply to Osteopathic Medical Schools as they interact with DOs and learn more about the Osteopathic profession.
DOs Pushing forward in 2018
There were major achievements in 2018 for the Osteopathic Profession. DOs received international recognition as fully licensed physicians by the UN’s International Labor Organization. This recognition will expand DO privilege beyond our borders.
Closer to home, the AOA residency programs are continuing their transition, with more than 6,600 AOA residency slots that are now ACGME accredited. The accreditation ensure the standards of each residency programs are the same. Additionally, the American Medical Association’s house of delegates approved a resolution promoting equal acceptance of COMPLEX and USMLE by residency programs. These exams are for licensing but used by residency programs to rank students.
Historically, many DO students decided to take both exams to apply for certain programs. The NRMP data for 2018 already illustrates Osteopathic candidates are matching to various ACGME specialties. The top five specialty tracks include Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics, and Anesthesiology. DOs also matched into Psychiatry, Pathology, Radiology, and Surgery.
I don’t believe my future career as a physician will be limited; I understand some career paths will be more challenging to achieve than others, but not impossible. The successful matches by past graduates at my medical school further illustrate that DOs can pursue all specialties, including Orthopedic Surgery, Radiology, ENT, Internal Medicine, and many more.
The path of becoming a physician, whether MD or DO, is difficult but achievable. I am grateful for the experiences and mentors that have supported me throughout my journey. I am proud to have chosen a profession that allows me to heal, spread hope, and knowledge.