Alexander American University
School of Medicine

Toll Free: 1800 2700 455

Osteopathic medicine

Osteopathic medicine is a branch of the medical profession in the United States. Osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) are fully licensed physicians (medical doctors) to practice medicine and surgery in all 50 states and are recognized in sixty five other countries, including all Canadian provinces.

Frontier physician Andrew Taylor Still founded the profession as a rejection of the prevailing system of medical thought of the 19th century. Still's techniques relied on manipulation of joints and bones, to diagnose and treat illness, and he called his practices “osteopathy”. By the middle of the 20th century, the profession had moved closer to mainstream medicine, adopting modern public health and biomedical principles. American "osteopaths" became "osteopathic medical doctors", ultimately achieving full practice rights as allopathic medical doctors in all 50 states, including serving in the U.S. armed forces as physicians.

In the 21st century, the training of osteopathic medical physicians in the United States is equivalent to the training of Doctors of Medicine (M.D.s). Osteopathic medical physicians attend four years of medical school followed by an internship and a minimum two years of residency. They use all conventional methods of diagnosis and treatment. Though still trained in osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), the modern derivative of Still's techniques, they work in all specialties of medicine. OMT is a skill they use often in family practice, sports medicine, emergency medicine, but OMT is not commonly used in specialties such as dermatology, surgery, or other fields that do not lend themselves to correcting the body with their hands.

In modern medicine, any distinction between the M.D. and the D.O. professions has eroded steadily; diminishing numbers of D.O. graduates enter primary care fields, fewer use OMT, and increasing numbers of osteopathic graduates choose to train in non-osteopathic residency programs.

Discussions about the future of modern medicine frequently debate the utility of maintaining separate, distinct pathways for educating physicians in the United States.