MD vs DO

The Pediatric Insider

© 2011 Roy Benaroch, MD

Shannon posted, “After having to part with our beloved pediatrician :0) to find one in our new home state, we’ve been feverishly researching the field of pediatricians. In particular, we’ve come across one in a practice that we are considering who is a pediatric DO not MD. They provided us with a sheet saying what a DO is but it was not a side by side comparison as to the difference between the two so we’re a little confused. What is a DO and what are your thoughts on their qualifications with regards to an MD?”

DO stands for “Doctor of Osteopathy”, which is different from the MD’s “Medical Doctor” degree. However, the difference is mostly historical. For the most part, in the United States physicians with either degree have very similar training, and are equally qualified.

The term osteopathy was invented by an American politician and doctor (an “MD”), Andrew Taylor Still, in 1874. He felt that the human body possessed inherent mechanisms to prevent injury and disease, and that these mechanisms could be relied on to heal the body during times of illness. Osteopathic physicians, based on Dr. Still’s teachings, were meant to provide therapy that helped enhance and unlock a body’s own healing power.

However, modern osteopathic medical schools, while continuing to teach a philosophy of mind, body, and health integration, also teach the same anatomy, physiology, and pathology taught at schools that train MDs. Indeed, almost all graduates of DO schools go on to residency programs alongside MDs, pursuing the same post-graduate training. They give prescribe the same medicines, do the same surgery, and for the most part give medical advice and perform medical services in a manner identical to that of MDs. Though some integrate osteopathic manual therapies (manipulation) into their practice, many do not.

So: I have no misgivings about taking your child to a person with a DO degree rather than an MD. In either case, your pediatrician should have completed a pediatric residency program, and ought to be a “Fellow” of the American Academy of Pediatrics (that’s the FAAP after our names). Beyond that, look for someone who listens, cares, and loves your children. With free parking, a friendly staff, and (ideally) monkeys painted on the exam room walls. That’s far more important than the name of the medical or osteopathic school on the diploma!

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4 Comments on “MD vs DO”

  1. Sugel Says:

    The attitude steeped in bitterness has not reached a contra-MD campaign on a gross level. Rather it remains secluded within the walls of osteopathic medical schools spread from clinician to student bodies in the form of off the cuff comments which try to glorify our approach while demonizing the MDs. We have all heard this and I hope that others have shared my shame by association in these childish attemts to make ourselves look better by degrading others. It is this background din that we are weaned on that I speak of and it is carried by us into our practices. It is no way to walk with dignity as we try to uncover solutions to help our patients. The recent NEJM editorial indeed says it best, we have no more enemy, the fight has ended, I only hope that our elders along with the recent generations of DO graduates can let go of these fixations and simply define their practice by excellence, not as DOs or MDs but as doctors.

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  2. Shannon Says:

    Thanks, Dr. Roy!

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  3. Dr. Roy Says:

    My pleasure Shannon! Sry it took so long :P. I did get a novel written, though!

    Hope you’ve found a great new ped!

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  4. Shannon Says:

    We have…but we do miss all of you. I sent a Christmas card so you can see how everyone has grown during the last 5 months!

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