Do MD vs DO Oncology: Exploring the Differences

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and Doctors of Medicine (MD) are two types of accredited doctors who can practice medical care in the United States. Both DOs and MDs require rigorous study in the field of medicine. Most people go to medical schools that offer MD, but DO degrees are growing in popularity. An MD is a traditional medicine degree, while a DO takes a holistic, mind-body-spirit approach to care.

In the U. S., both DOs and MDs are licensed physicians, but there are some key differences between the two. Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences between DOs and MDs, as well as how it affects your medical practice. The main difference between DOs and MDs boils down to the philosophy of care.

ODs practice an osteopathic approach to care, while physicians practice an allopathic approach to care. An allopathic approach focuses on contemporary research-based medicine and often uses medications or surgery to treat and manage different conditions. An osteopathic approach to care focuses on the whole body. ODs often focus on preventive care.

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), a person seeking a DO degree should expect to participate in an additional 200 hours or more of hands-on training on the musculoskeletal system. In terms of practices, both DOs and MDs can dedicate themselves to any specialty they choose. However, a student considering either program doesn't always need to worry about which route to take. Ultimately, prospective students should consider the school and curriculum to determine which one best suits them. MD and DO programs have similar requirements when it comes to education.

A person needs a grade point average (GPA) and a very high score on the medical college admissions test (MCAT) in order to attend any of the programs. Once in medical school, a student in either program must complete 4 years of study. Its curriculum consists of science courses and clinical rotations. The main difference is that those studying for a DO degree must complete an additional 200 hours of study on the musculoskeletal system. License tests will also be different.

Students taking a DO will take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination, but they can also take the USMLE. Students pursuing an MD will also take the USMLE. Graduates of allopathic schools receive Doctor of Medicine, or MD, degrees. Osteopathic school alumni have a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, or DO, degree. Someone with either grade can call themselves a doctor. Kenneth Steier, pulmonologist with a DO degree, who is also executive dean of the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York, warns that becoming a doctor is not easy, regardless of whether you take the MD or DO route.

Steier suggests that, due to the extraordinary competitiveness of medical school admissions, those who are determined to become doctors should consider applying for both MD and DO programs to increase their chances of acceptance. Cain, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, says osteopathic medical education is designed to empower physicians who treat each patient as a whole person. Cain, a board certified pulmonologist with a DO degree who previously served patients for 14 years, notes that osteopathic medical principles “emphasize the mind-body-spirit connection and the body's ability to heal itself”.The Origins of MD curriculum dates back to the ancient Greeks, says Molly Johannessen, PhD. Steier emphasizes that medical school is extraordinarily difficult, regardless of whether it is taught with an MD or DO curriculum. Programs include science classes on topics such as anatomy, biochemistry and physiology, says Steier, but one distinction is that about one-tenth of the DO curriculum focuses on hands-on musculoskeletal training called osteopathic manipulative treatment. Regardless of the type of medical school an aspiring physician attends, they can expect to complete a residency after earning a medical degree, and that residency will complement their general medical education with training in a specific specialty such as oncology.

Degree says a medical student's odds of obtaining a desirable residency match depend on many factors that have nothing to do with the type of medical school they attended. Residency selection criteria include medical school grades, research, leadership, community service and board ratings. Historically graduates have pursued primary care careers more frequently than their MD colleagues; however those trends are changing experts say. Physicians are entering primary care fields such as family medicine internal medicine and pediatrics says Steier adding that a growing number of DO physicians are entering advanced specialties such as anesthesiology neurosurgery and invasive cardiology.

Mara Cvejic pediatric neurologist and sleep medicine specialist who has a DO degree warns that it can be challenging for osteopathic medicine students to find mentors in medical specialties where allopathic medicine degrees are the norm. Nitesh Paryani radiation oncologist with an MD title says an advantage of allopathic medical schools is that they are typically affiliated with large teaching hospitals which provide access to cutting edge technology and research opportunities. In conclusion both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools provide preparation for a career as a physician but there are some key differences between them such as philosophy curriculum requirements license tests career paths and academic credentials awarded. Ultimately prospective students should consider their individual preferences when deciding which program best suits them.