Episode 12: Ostopathic Medicine Training: What’s so special about it?


There is more than one way to become a physician: Allopathic and Osteopathic. Today’s discussion is about the pathway to doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.)

In addition to all of the traditional aspects of physician work that you’re familiar with, osteopathic physicians theoretically have a few other tenants that they emphasize:

1. The human body systems need to be in correct relationship with one another (really just normal physiology)

2. The musculoskeletal system gets some special attention.

I’d like to add a third: the osteopathic physician is taught to take care of the “whole patient”. Holistic medicine refers to the taking care of the whole person, i.e., mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Really the only difference is that they can pop your back! They get all the same jobs, direct hospital departments, and go to all the same residency programs.

So, why are we talking about them? Because some people don’t apply to these programs as a first choice, leaving opportunities on the table for you.

In 2007, the average allopathic applicant had a MCAT score of 28 and a GPA of 3.5. An average osteopathic applicant had a MCAT of 25 and a GPA of 3.5.

Many residency programs accept the COMLEX exam, but some may also require the USMLE.


4 years of medical school
3 years of internal medicine residency
2-3 years of fellowship training in Infectious Disease

Traditionally, Infectious Disease specialists operate as a consult service in the hospital. The main activity is in clinics.

The approach is not that the ID doctor is there when someone has an infection, but they are there to help when the treating physician confronts a complicated patient outside his or her expertise.

They also hold the purse strings for the hospital’s pharmacy by serving on committees that decide which drugs can be dispensed and which ones the hospital will and will not provide. The newer, expensive antibiotics often need special approval from the committee on an individual basis. They’re not being mean, their slowing down the evolutionary resistance mechanisms of the microorganisms trying to kill our patients.



Apply to them first so that you don’t forget to do it. Remember, there is nothing second rate about being a D.O.


National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners


List of Osteopathic Medical Colleges: