Osteopathic physicians or D.O.s are very similar to allopathic physicians or M.D.s. They are both licensed to practice in every field of medicine, from the operating room to academia. Their training programs are also similar right down to the job opportunities available. However, they start to differ in the other areas; most noticeable is their numbers. Osteopathic doctors only comprise 6 percent of practicing physicians as of 2008. This large difference in numbers means that a lot of people, even other premeds, are not well acquainted with the osteopathic tradition.
Osteopathic medicine is an alternative to allopathic medicine that differs in philosophy and purpose. Osteopathic medical schools give additional medical training in regards to muscular-skeletal manipulation, and have a unique “whole person” perspective on diagnosis, practice, and consultation.
In theory, osteopathy is more proactive than reactive, which means it promotes health and wellness instead of treat the symptoms of a disease. This makes D.O.s or Osteopathic physicians more suited to health care and health tourism than their allopathic counterparts, since osteopathic medical schools tend to focus more on general care, preventative medicine and the social and psychological aspects of treatment.
Premeds who are aiming to become well rounded, all-purpose physicians rather than medical specialists should consider osteopathic medical schools than their allopathic counterparts. It is also ideal for students who prefer noninvasive treatments and an individualized approach to medicine.
Many premeds also consider osteopathy because they believe that they will have fewer competitors and less-competitive admission standards than specialized medicine. The part about having fewer competitors is true, in the sense that osteopathic medical schools always have fewer applicants than allopathic medical schools. The other part, however, is less grounded in reality.
In reality, osteopathic schools require a high level of achievement from their prospective students and their admission standards are highly selective. As of 2007, the average MCAT and GPA scores for osteopathic students are 3.4 and 25 respectively, as compared to allopathic schools, who boast of 3.45 and 30. The main difference, however, is that osteopathic medical school tends to value character and personal qualities over academic achievements. This makes osteopathy ideal for a student who has below average grades but has a strong determination to become a doctor.
Osteopathy is also ideal for older individuals who have tried other career paths before deciding to pursue medicine. As a direct proof of this, majority of osteopathic students across the US is made up of older, non-traditional students. Many of these students are already established professionals in other fields, but have decided to enter health care due to various personal reasons.
Osteopathic physicians are usually trained in the United States and Canada, however, they have unlimited practice rights in over fifty countries worldwide. Their international activities are monitored and overseen by the CIOMEA or Council on International Osteopathic Medical Education and Affairs.
The recent boom on the health care and health tourism industry means that the opportunities for osteopathic physicians are growing even faster than before. Currently, Osteopathic physicians are among the fastest improving and growing group of health care professionals.