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D.O. or M.D. What’s the Difference?


Submitted by Central Illinois Orthopedic Surgery

The medical designation M.D. is well known to most people, but have you ever seen D.O. after a physician’s name and wondered what it meant? M.D. stands for Doctor of Medicine and D.O. stands for Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. Both M.D.s and D.O.s are physicians, equally qualified to treat patients and held to the same standards with similar education and training. However, because there are not as many D.O.s and the term is not as familiar, some people have the misconception that a D.O. isn’t a “real” doctor. This is simply not true. The two degrees are virtually identical and both practice the full range of medicine in the United States. The differences are primarily in the philosophy of care.

Both M.D.s and D.O.s attend four years of medical school, complete a three to seven-year residency program, pass a rigorous exam to be fully licensed, can practice medicine in all 50 states, can perform surgery, and may continue their education to be qualified to specialize in any medical field. Furthermore, both base their diagnosis and treatment on scientifically proven principals.

The main difference between M.D.s and D.O.s is that osteopathic physicians spend an additional 200 hours on musculoskeletal health during the first two years of medical school. This entails learning more about the connection between nerves, muscles, and bones and how this connection affects an individual’s overall health. D.O.s are trained to treat medical conditions by using a more holistic approach that considers all facets of a person including environment, nutrition, and the mind-body connection. An M.D.’s training is more focused on considering the signs and symptoms of an illness and treating it with medicine or interventions like surgery. However, this is less of a difference now as many M.D.s and M.D. programs also emphasize a holistic approach, focusing more on wellness and prevention.

As a patient, you should be equally comfortable seeking treatment from a doctor who is an M.D. or a D.O. Choose a physician based on their expertise, experience, and their willingness to listen and take time to explain things so that you understand your condition and the recommended treatment plan.

For more information on any orthopedic condition – including joint replacement, sports injuries, trauma and fractures — you may contact Brett Keller, D.O., at Central Illinois Orthopedic Surgery. 309-662-2278, or visit them online Their office is located at 1505 Eastland Dr., Suite 220 in Bloomington.