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Osteopathic Medicine/Osteopathy

Program Description

Just the Facts

Osteopathic Medicine/Osteopathy. A program that prepares individuals for the independent professional practice of osteopathic medicine, involving a combination of medical principles and procedures and osteopathic principles of holistic medicine and the relationship of the musculoskeletal system to general health. Includes instruction in the basic medical sciences, preventive medicine, family and community medicine, medical informatics, disease systems, organ and physiologic systems, osteopathic principles and practice, osteopathic manipulative treatment, musculoskeletal and skin systems, clinical specialty rotations, medical ethics, and professional standards and practice management.

This program is available in these options:

  • Bachelor's degree
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

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Additional Information

Osteopathy is a type of health care that looks at the human musculoskeletal system's role in health and disease. The musculoskeletal system is an important part of the body because it influences the condition of the body's other systems.

Osteopathic physicians use modern medical technology and hands-on diagnosis. They aim to improve the body's overall health.

"There is a desperate need for physicians in this country, especially for those who are willing to work in underserved areas," says Donald Haight. He is the director of admissions at Touro University-California's College of Osteopathic Medicine.

"The deciding factor for me to choose an osteopathic medical program is the philosophy of the profession," says Jennie Shen. She's a second-year osteopathic medical student at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. "Osteopathic medical doctors believe that treatment should be applied to the whole person instead of just the disease. Approaches are made not only to treatment of the problem experience, but the overall well-being of the patient [as well]."

Students who want to become osteopathic physicians must attend medical school. Since medical school is graduate-level, you will first have to complete your undergraduate degree. Most medical schools want you to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) as part of your application package.

Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine, for instance, looks for undergraduates to have earned a fairly high GPA, be good students, and have some experience in health care services.

Science programs are preferred in undergraduates' studies, including chemistry, biology, zoology, biochemistry, physics, as well as English, behavioral science, math and computer science.

Haight explains that it isn't just medical schools' preference for science courses that makes it difficult to choose a non-science major. Doing well on the MCAT and satisfying medical school prerequisites requires taking so many science courses that it simply leaves little time for other areas of study.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, there are currently 25 colleges of osteopathic medicine and three branch campuses that offer the Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree.

Admission is highly competitive. Three to four thousand students apply to Touro University's College of Osteopathic Medicine in a year and only 135 make the cut.

"You have to know what you want to do and ask the [undergraduate] premed advisor for guidance in selecting courses each semester that will prepare you for the MCAT when you want to take it," says Haight.

Communicating well with your patients is key in the holistic approach of osteopathy. Experience working in health care prior to or during your studies can be a great help in this regard. It's also an asset when applying to medical programs.

"Be certain to pick up some clinical experience. This could range anywhere from volunteer work to shadowing a physician. Shadowing a physician is not required, but it's nice to see," says Haight.

Some other things to consider are that tuition to medical school is expensive, and you will have textbooks and living expenses on top of that. Also, there are few osteopathic medical schools in North America, so you may have to move or commute to attend school.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Physicians and Surgeons

Osteopathy -- HealthWorld Online
Links to good information

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
Information about all the colleges offering the DO degree


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