How to Answer the “Why Osteopathic Medicine?” Interview Question


Medical school interviews are upon you, and you must do everything you can to prepare. While you may be familiar with common interview questions like “Tell me about yourself,” or “Why do you want to attend this medical school?”, if you are planning to apply to osteopathic (DO) schools, there is another question you must be prepared for. DO applicants must know how to answer the “Why osteopathic medicine?” interview question.

In this post, we break down how to prepare the best possible answer to the “Why osteopathic medicine?” question, as well as what interviewers are looking for and what the DO medical school interview process looks like.


The Purpose of the “Why Osteopathic Medicine?” Interview Question

Similar to your osteopathic personal statement, schools want to know why you are pursuing osteopathic medicine specifically. They want to know you’re not just looking at DO schools as a backup plan and are actually passionate about practicing osteopathy.

There are many similarities between allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) physicians. Namely, MDs and DOs are both licensed to practice medicine in the US, both have to complete four years of medical school, followed by residency, and nearly every specialization available to an MD is also available to a DO. That said, each has a different approach and philosophy when it comes to practicing medicine, and these paths don’t come with the same reputation.

An allopathic doctor, also known as a medical doctor (MD), is the most traditional path to becoming a physician in the US. Allopathy is the medical philosophy and system where medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals take a science-based (also known as evidence-based) approach to treating patients with mainstream, modern medicine, such as radiation, drugs, and surgery. MDs focus on prevention and acute care to preserve the health of their patients.

Osteopathic doctors (DOs) have a different philosophy of medicine. They differentiate themselves from MDs with a whole-body approach that treats the person—not the symptoms. DOs focus on holistic care, the interconnectedness of the body’s systems and organs and how they influence each other, and patient-centered treatment. DOs use a wide range of hands-on techniques, such as massage therapy, to support healing and ease pain. It’s also important to note that DOs can only practice medicine in the US.

Learn more: MD vs. DO: Allopathic/Osteopathic Doctor and Med School Comparison.

If you want to pursue osteopathic medicine, it is vital you understand these differences, and even more critical that you’re able to articulate them in front of your interviewer. They want to know what draws you to this type of medicine specifically with examples from your past that clearly demonstrate you understand the difference between MD and DO and are confident in your decision to become an osteopath.


How to Answer the “Why Osteopathic Medicine?” Question

1 | Speak to Osteopathic Values

It is imperative that you know the overarching principles of osteopathic medicine in and out and can naturally speak about why you are passionate about these values and how they align with your own.

There are four principles of osteopathic training and practice, also known as the tenets of osteopathic medicine. They have been approved as policy by the American Osteopathic Association House of Delegates.

  1. The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.
  2. The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
  3. Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
  4. Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.

The focus of osteopathic medicine is on preventing illness and understanding the connections between the various systems and organs in the body, as well as how they influence each other. Osteopathic medicine is holistic and patient-centered and looks beyond the physical symptoms of illness or injury to consider the overall health and wellbeing of their patients.

Why do you share these values? Why do you believe osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) is effective and superior to allopathic approaches? How have you lived these values in your own life, and have you seen the osteopathic approach work?

Always backup your words with authentic anecdotes and concrete examples from your own life.

2 | Avoid Cliches and Generalizations

Don’t be obvious and simply list the principles of osteopathic medicine as your own. Just like with the “Why medicine?” interview question, avoid cliches and common answers, like “I want to help people.” While this is certainly true, it’s also true of every other premed applying to become an MD or DO. You want to stand out from the pack.

While this isn’t easy, you can avoid cliches by providing specific examples from your own past. Your path and ambitions may be similar to your fellow applicants, but the details are unique, so be as specific as possible about your experiences with osteopathy and why you believe it’s the right path for you.

It may sound obvious, but it’s important to actually answer the question being asked. Keep in mind that the question here specifically wants to know why osteopathy—not just why you want to pursue medicine in general.

Why do you, based on everything you currently know about medicine and your past experiences, believe osteopathic medicine is your future?

3 | Provide Examples From Your Experience With Osteopathy

As we’ve touched on previously, providing examples of your experiences with osteopathy is absolutely essential. How else can you authentically say that you want to become a DO if you have no idea what they’re about or what a day in the life of an osteopath actually looks like?

Prove you have the experience to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that osteopathy is right for you; it’s not a last-minute decision based purely on your lackluster MCAT score. Even if your qualifications and test scores are a major factor in your decision, you must not convey this to your interviewer. They need to hear you speak about osteopathy with conviction, enthusiasm, and real world knowledge.

It’s vital that you have worked with or shadowed DOs in the past and know what the profession is like. Use specific examples from your experiences.

What was it about seeing osteopathy at work in a clinical setting that inspired you or made you want to choose this path? What character traits or values did you see in the DO you shadowed that you want to emulate in your future career? What was it like to see manual therapies and osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) in practice? When specifically did it click for you that you had to be an osteopath?


The DO Medical School Interview Process

The DO application process is very much like the MD application process, and the same is true of interviews.

Learn more about the application process for osteopathic medical schools in our comprehensive AACOMAS Application Guide For DO Schools.

Just like with allopathic schools, the AACOMAS applications open around the beginning of May each year. Medical schools begin receiving applications around mid-June. Stay on top of your deadlines and submit your application as soon as possible.

Applying early is one of the most critical medical school admission strategies.

Secondaries arrive about two to four weeks after schools receive your primary application, and it’s critical that you get these submitted within 7 to 14 days (two weeks) of receiving them. This is no mean feat, as depending on how many programs you applied to, you could receive as many secondaries all around the same time.

Draft answers to common secondary questions in advance so that you’re as prepared as possible. The faster you submit your secondaries, the faster you’ll receive invitations to interview.

Interview invites could arrive as early as late August or as late as spring of the following year. You may receive invitations at any point during this time, so it is vital that you start preparing for interviews long before you begin receiving invites.

Graphic Medical School Timeline ideal and possible

For more information about ideal scheduling, read our Medical School Application Timeline Guide.

It is critical that you respond to your interview invitations as fast as you possibly can, as available dates and times will be gone before you know it. Never forget about rolling admissions—medical schools, including osteopathic schools, review applications on a continuous (rolling) basis, meaning the first people to respond get the first interviews. Since schools only offer spots while they’re available, waiting to schedule your interviews actively lowers your chances of acceptance.

It doesn’t matter how well you perform on the other aspects of your AACOMAS application; if you give a poor interview, it will squander your chance of acceptance. You must prepare for your interviews throughout the entire application process.

Read our comprehensive Medical School Interview Guide for a complete overview of common interview questions, preparation advice, and mistakes to avoid.


Practice With Mock Interviews

Mock interviews give you the opportunity to put your interview skills to the test in a controlled environment and format that authentically simulates interview day. Med School Insiders offers mock interviews with former interviewers who will provide you with direct, insightful feedback on your performance.

Our doctor advisors have served on both sides of medical school admissions committees. We know what it takes to stand out, and we’ll help you craft a standout AACOMAS application that knocks each aspect of the application out of the park.

We also offer a comprehensive course on How to Ace the Medical School Interview that covers the entire interview process, providing you with thorough and thoughtful training. We’ve painstakingly covered everything you need to know, from your packing checklist to thank you notes to body language to example answers, and much more.


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