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Medicine on the Move

The dramatic growth of osteopathic medicine continues, according to the 2019 Osteopathic Medical Profession report. Today, the total number of osteopathic physicians and medical students is over 150,000 for the first time.

The number of doctors of osteopathic medicine, or DOs, has increased 290% since 1990, the new report finds.

“Now more than ever, the health care system needs compassionate physicians, and DOs are answering the call,” said AOA President Ronald Burns, DO, FACOFP. “The growth in our profession is critically important when the nation is facing a pandemic as well as a growing physician shortage.”

DOs are not MDs

There are two types of fully licensed physicians in the US: Medical Doctors (MDs) and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs). Their training and education are similar and equally rigorous, involving four years of medical school followed by specialty training in a residency program. Both types of physicians practice in every medical and surgical specialty in the United States.

Doctors of osteopathic medicine, or DOs, use a unique approach to health care that helps promote the body’s natural tendency toward health and self-healing. By partnering with patients, DOs focus on prevention and promote wellness by learning about their patients’ lifestyles and environments.

More trainees, young DOs

For the past several years, one in four American medical students has attended an osteopathic medical school. Today, two-thirds of practicing DOs are under age 45.

Across the US, more than 121,000 DOs practice their distinct philosophy of medicine in a wide variety of communities, practice settings, and specialties. The number of female DOs has grown dramatically in recent years—today, 42% of actively practicing DOs are women, and nearly three-quarters of actively practicing female DOs are under age 45.

Specialty breakdown

While the majority of DOs—nearly 57%—practice in the primary care specialties of family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics, almost 44% have chosen non-primary care specialties. The top five non-primary care specialties for DOs are emergency medicine, anesthesiology, OB-GYN, general surgery, and psychiatry.

Frontline physicians

DOs and osteopathic medical students are on the frontlines of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. They are treating patients, preparing their hospitals and communities for influxes of COVID-19 patients, sharing the latest information about the disease, and training each other on the recent changes to practicing medicine, such as updated telemedicine regulations.

“We’re proud of each and every DO and osteopathic medical student and the sacrifices they are making to take care of patients and support the nation during this difficult time,” said Dr. Burns.

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