American College of Osteopathic Surgeons

"Osteopathic Surgery: The D.O. Difference"

What is an Osteopathic Physician - D.O.?

A doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) is a fully trained and licensed physician who prescribes medications, performs surgery, and utilizes all accepted scientific methods to maintain and restore your optimum health. Today's D.O. provides comprehensive medical care, including preventive medicine, diagnosis, appropriate use of drugs, surgery, manipulative procedures, and hospital referral. And that care is provided with the "D.O. Difference": an emphasis on the human body as one complete system that performs best when all of the body's components function together harmoniously.

Osteopathic medicine began as a reform movement in the late 1880s. Andrew Taylor Still, a traditionally trained physician, set out to improve medical care. He felt the major emphasis should be on preserving health rather than merely treating disease. He believed in treating the patient as a whole, taking into account the impact of psychosocial and environmental factors on illness, and introduced the concept of holistic medicine. He also developed techniques of manual medicine, known today as osteopathic manipulative therapy, or OMT.

Allopathic medicine was not prepared to accept Still's tenets, however, so he established his own school. The two branches remained largely separate until the 1970s, when they began actively collaborating. "All the barriers which separated us are gone now," says the dean of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine. "The two groups are strongly united in their efforts to offer the best medical care."

All medical students take the same licensing exams, osteopathic physicians serve as faculty in allopathic medical schools and vice versa, hospital rosters and individual practices are mixed, and OMT is gaining acceptance and is now a major part of rehabilitation medicine.

How do D.O Surgeons care for their patients?

Problems in one part of your body may cause problems in another area. Although your D.O. surgeon's primary emphasis is on surgical care and treatment, he or she has been taught how to consider your injury or illness not by itself, but in relation to its effect on the rest of your body. Your D.O. surgeon cares for you as a whole person!

What kind of surgical training do D.O.s receive?

Early in training, the D.O. surgeon learns to treat the complete patient. He or she works closely with your primary care physician to consider all your medical needs. This approach to understanding the needs of the patient doesn't just happen. An osteopathic physician has attended an undergraduate college or university and then has successfully completed four years of osteopathic medical education before receiving the Doctor of Osteopathy degree. Colleges of osteopathic medicine are accredited by the Bureau of Professional Education of the American Osteopathic Association, which is recognized for that purpose by the U.S. Office of Education and Council on Postsecondary Accreditation.

But your osteopathic surgeon's education doesn't stop there. Following four years of osteopathic medical school, the D.O. physician must complete a one-year internship (including experience in general practice, internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics), and then another four to six years of specialized training to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to become your surgeon. There are licensed D.O. surgeons in all specialties of surgery, including general, general vascular, neurological, obstetrical and gynecological, orthopedic, plastic and reconstructive, thoracic and cardiovascular, urological, ENT (ears, nose, and throat), and ophthalmological.

Does my surgeon keep up to date with new advances in surgery?

Yes! Professional education for the D.O. surgeon is a lifelong process to remain professionally informed in a field that is constantly advancing in care and treatment. The American College of Osteopathic Surgeons requires its members in active practice to complete at least 150 credit hours of approved continuing surgical education every three years.

What is Board Certification?

In addition to educational degrees and licensure, another indication of competence is whether a D.O. surgeon is board certified. A surgeon who is certified by the American Osteopathic Association has satisfactorily completed an approved program of surgical training after graduating from an accredited college of osteopathic medicine and completing a one-year internship.

A surgeon who is seeking certification must pass a three-part examination that tests the knowledge, judgment, and skills necessary to practice a particular surgical specialty. This exam includes written, oral, and practical tests. Successful completion of these tests is designed to assure you that the D.O. surgeon has sufficient and appropriate training to provide you with surgical care.

Remember the "D.O. Difference"

Osteopathic training uniquely equips D.O.s to pay special attention to interactions among all of your body's systems. So even those D.O.s who choose to become surgical specialists can care for you as a whole person. Your osteopathic surgeon's objective is to treat causes, not just symptoms. And that's good medicine!

American College of Osteopathic Surgeons
123 North Henry Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 684-0416

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My Curriculum Vitae-- What is a D.O. Surgeon?-- What does a General Surgeon do?-- The American Osteopathic Association-- More About Osteopathic Medicine-- Medical Information Sources