Are you a premed student looking to apply to medical school and wondering what the difference is between osteopathic and allopathic physicians? This post by Dr. Jaime Baynes-Fields shares her experience of applying, why she chose a DO program, and why she's proud to have DO after her name.
I am a DO, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine! I am proud to call myself a DO even though I may not use osteopathic manipulations in the practice of Nephrology. My approach to each patient is infused with osteopathic principles.
So, I am sure you are wondering why DO over MD if you don’t use the physical skills you were taught in medical school? It’s simple, I wanted to be a physician, so I applied to both MD and DO schools to increase my chances of acceptance. I was accepted into 3 DO schools and zero MD schools, to be honest I was not offered an interview at any of the MD schools I applied to. Yet, if you look at 2012 statistics the acceptance rate was lower for DO schools than for MD schools, making it statistically easier to get into MD schools. Even with a lower GPA and MCAT average for acceptance in DO schools, the vast number of applicants drives the competition and acceptance rate.
So, why did those 3 DO schools take a chance on me? Osteopathic medical schools tend to look at the applicant, more than a GPA or MCAT score. The DO principles are based on a holistic approach to medicine in addition to 300-500 hours of osteopathic manipulative medicine. MD schools notoriously have taught an allopathic approach, but the tides are changing. In a world of patient center medicine, the gap between DO and MD are closing rapidly. MD schools are beginning to adapt a more patient center approach to their curriculums. And in 2020, the gap will become even more narrowed as a single accreditation system will be in place and DO/MD will share all residences. So, I believe the new question will become, how will YOU distinguish yourself as a DO over an MD?!
As for me, I am prouder today to be a DO than the day I started medical school. The acceptance committee saw me as a person, accepted my flaws and through their teachings amplified the physician I desired to become and strengthened my ability to care for the person, not the disease.
The Osteopathic Oath first insert best summarizes my sentiments of why and what type of physician I aspire to be throughout my career, and thus I am so grateful to write, D.O. behind my name:
“I do hereby affirm my loyalty to the profession I am about to enter. I will be mindful always of my great responsibility to preserve the health and the life of my patients, to retain their confidence and respect both as a physician and a friend who will guard their secrets with scrupulous honor and fidelity, to perform faithfully my professional duties, to employ only those recognized methods of treatment consistent with good judgment and with my skill and ability, keeping in mind always nature's laws and the body's inherent capacity for recovery.”
I completed my internal medicine residency at one of the largest osteopathic teaching programs in the southeastern US and was trained by primarily DOs. But as I ventured into fellowship, I found myself in an allopathic teaching hospital, surrounded by MDs. I will be honest, for the first day, I was intimidated. But as the days passed, I quickly realized, I was the only one even THINKING of the initials behind my name. There was no overt bias towards me as a DO. To even more debunk the bias of DOs, after one short year, I was nominated as the chief fellow. It’s my belief that my osteopathic training helped me standout in the crowd of MDs. With that said, I do believe I had less bias than initially expected because Pennsylvania is a DO friendly state with several Osteopathic medical schools.
While I know many DOs, even some of my fellow classmates, have experience biased as only 7% of practicing physicians are DOs, the bias seems to evaporate with perseverance and compassionate medical care. In my opinion it is more a matter of educating individuals on the difference between DO vs MD as well as the similarities. As our Osteopathic community grows with 20% of current medical students in Osteopathic training the gap of practicing physicians will close along with the inert bias that once existed.
So, no matter if you are a DO or MD, you are a physician. Be attentive to the needs of others, be a continuous learner and educator, take interest in those around you, be compassionate, be vulnerable and beyond all else be kind to yourself and the patients you care for. I promise, you will thrive no matter what initials are behind your name if you remain grateful to every patient that calls you their doctor; allowing you share in the most tragic and memorable moments of their lives.
If you are pre-med and still not sure where your career path will lead you; please reference “A Brief Guide to Osteopathic Medicine For Students, By Students” by Patrick Wu, DO and Jonathan Siu, DO.