Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

What is osteopathic medicine?

A Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) is a fully trained physician able to provide all aspects of healthcare to patients and can practice in all medical specialties. D.O.s are licensed to perform surgery, prescribe medicine and utilize manipulative treatment. Osteopathic medicine is a philosophy of caring for people, not just treating symptoms. D.O.s believe in a whole person philosophy. They help their patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don’t just fight illness, but prevent it. They give special attention to how the body’s nerves, muscles, bones and organs work together to influence health. D.O.s practice throughout the United States and throughout the world. It is estimated that 60,000 D.O.s practice in the U.S.

  • D.O.s practice a whole person approach to medicine. Instead of treating specific symptoms or illnesses they regard the body as an integrated whole.
  • D.O.s receive extra training in the musculoskeletal system - the body's interconnected system of nerves, muscles, and bones. This training provides osteopathic physicians with a better understanding of the ways in which an injury or illness in one part of the body can affect another.
  • Osteopathic physicians focus on preventive health care.
  • Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is incorporated in the training and practice of osteopathic physicians.
    • D.O.s are trained to use their hands to diagnose injury and illness and encourage the body's natural tendency toward good health.
    • By combining all other medical procedures with OMT, D.O.s offer their patients the most comprehensive healthcare available in medicine today.
  • The founder of osteopathic medicine, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, recognized the body’s ability to heal itself and stressed preventative medicine, eating properly and keeping fit. This is something that seems so obvious to us today, but wellness was a new concept for that time.

Read more about Osteopathic Medicine in the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine's Brief Guide to Osteopathic Medicine, For Students, By Students.

At a glance

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine:

  • typically have a four-year undergraduate degree with an emphasis in the sciences.
  • complete four years of basic medical education.
  • complete a residency program .
  • are fully trained and licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery.
  • must pass national and state licensing examinations.
  • practice in fully accredited and licensed healthcare institutions.


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