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The Difference Between D.O. and M.D. Degrees
Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara discusses D.O. and M.D. degrees, the difference between them, and how to choose the one that is right for you.
If you have decided to become a doctor, we’re happy for you! Medicine is a wonderful and rewarding profession that requires dedication, skill, and compassion. What kind of degree will you get in order to become a doctor? If you are confused by this question, you are not alone. Many people are not aware that there are two paths toward becoming a physician, and two different types of medical schools that can award you a medical degree. Allopathic medical schools award a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, while students in osteopathic medical schools earn a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. So, what is the difference? And is one type of degree better than the other? 

Whether you choose an osteopathic or allopathic school, you graduate with a degree that allows you to call yourself a physician. Neither type of school is easy, and both have rigorous standards and competitive admissions. In fact, some experts advise applying to both types of school, in order to raise your chances of being accepted. The mission of both types of medical school is to promote wellness and treat illness. How they go about achieving this is where the philosophies diverge. 

•    Allopathic medicine is traditional, with origins that can be traced back to Hippocrates, in Ancient Greece. That’s why doctors who graduate from allopathic medical schools take the Hippocratic oath. The idea behind allopathic medicine is that it focuses on alleviating symptoms of illness. Also known as Western medicine, allopathic medicine is science-based and uses mainstream medical practices like prescription medication, blood work and other laboratory testing, vaccines, and surgery. In some cases, allopathic medical schools offer courses in complementary or integrative medicine.

•    Osteopathic medicine focuses on treating the whole person instead of focusing on the illness. The principles behind osteopathic medicine emphasize things like the body’s ability to heal itself and the mind-body-spirit connection. Osteopathic doctors see the body as an interconnected system, and they take a hands-on approach to treatment that is similar to chiropractic manipulation. They also tend to focus more on prevention than treatment, coaching patients on wellness practices. However, doctors of osteopathy also learn allopathic techniques and can prescribe medication and work alongside conventional doctors. 

The coursework in these two different types of medical school is similar, and extremely difficult. Students in each type of school study topics like anatomy, biochemistry, and physiology. They undergo non-clinical and clinical training, and follow their medical school graduations with residencies. During these residencies, and after they’re completed, the new doctors have the same scope of care and permitted privileges. One big difference between the two types of school is that about one tenth of the course work at an osteopathic medical school focuses on hands on therapies. 

There is one single accreditation system for both DOs and MDs, but the two types of doctors take separate board exams. To become a DO, medical school graduates take the COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States), while for an MD, there’s the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination.) In many cases, DO students take the USMLE to broaden their chances for being accepted into residencies. However, this is not necessary anymore, since I 2018, the American Medical Association approved a resolution that promotes the acceptance of both types of exams equally by residency program directors.

It is not surprising that many DOs become primary care physicians. The patient-centered approach of osteopathy fits well with the work of a PCP or internal medicine doctor, whose work is based in building patient relationships. While only 28 percent of active physicians in the United States with MDs practice in primary care specialties, 57 percent of DOs choose this type of profession.
Which type of medical school is the right option for you? It depends on the school and your personal preferences. It’s a wise move to apply to both types, and if you are accepted to both types, research the individual schools to determine where you will thrive. If you are looking for a medical school with a deep-rooted tradition of quality, look into Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. The first medical school in Latin America to offer a US-style curriculum, we are committed to cultivating future physicians who have the skills and abilities necessary to meet the challenges of personal and community health. With the best facilities in Guadalajara, state-of-the-art laboratories, and a close working relationship with many of the hospitals in the city, we are able to provide an excellent educational experience for our students both on campus and in the field. With the goal of preparing graduates for careers as physicians where they can provide individuals, families, and communities with outstanding preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic services, our medical school offers a curriculum of excellence. We prepare our students to heal and serve their community, and we encourage them to strive for innovation, academic excellence, leadership, and commitment to society. For more information about our college of medicine, call 833-220-7645 or contact us through our website.


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