What Kind of Doctor Is a D.O.?

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From the time most of us are children, we learn to recognize two initials -- ”M.D.” -- as those standing for “medical doctor.” People with these initials after their names completed four years of college, often with a major in science; studied medicine for four more years; completed a residency at a hospital or medical center, often after choosing a specialty; and passed exams to secure a state license. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) have done all this and more.

D.O. speaking with patient
D.O. speaking with patient (Image: PIKSEL/iStock/Getty Images)

Hands-On Focus

A doctor of osteopathic medicine engages in between 300 and 500 additional hours of study about the body's musculoskeletal system and develops a heightened sense of touch through “hands-on” medicine. They believe that people's “history of illness and physical trauma are written into the body's structure,” according to the National Institutes of Health. Put another way, they prefer a more holistic approach to medical issues -- meaning that they focus on the whole body -- and focus their attention of the interaction of muscles and bones. D.O.s are more likely to bring this dimension of health care to the fields of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology.

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