By Ashlee Osier
DMACC Honors Student
When choosing our primary care physician, many of us do not do the research necessary to find a doctor that fits our needs. We may simply start going to the clinic nearest to us, schedule an appointment that fits our convenience, and continue seeing the same doctor for years.
But, should this really be the way we select the physician that we entrust with our healthcare needs?
Little do many of us know that there are two types of doctors we can choose from: a medical doctor (M.D.) or an osteopathic doctor (D.O.). Although many of us may not even pay attention to the title of the doctor we are seeing, it is actually very important to the quality of our health. If we were more aware of the various benefits osteopathic physicians can provide us, the quality of the healthcare we receive could potentially be much greater.
Until recently, my doctor was an M.D. Even as a pre-medicine student, I did not pay much attention to which kind of doctor I was seeing. Although I knew the difference, I was not aware of the impact choosing the right type of doctor made on my health. As only a sixteen-year old, I was taking many different medications. However, I recently did my own research and realized how greatly those medications were affecting my body, which is something that my doctor never took the time to share with me. I furthered my research about D.O.s and how their treatment philosophy differs from an M.D.’s, so I decided that I wanted to start seeing a D.O. and see for myself if the quality of my health (and thus, my healthcare) would improve. I explained to my D.O. the concerns I had for my health and not to my surprise, he decided to alter my treatment plan and even took me off one of my medications.
Both M.D.s and D.O.s are licensed medical professionals, meaning they both attended medical school and completed residencies; they also have very similar responsibilities as doctors.
There are quite a few significant differences between the philosophies and practices of an M.D. and D.O. M.D.s practice allopathic medicine, which consists of treating symptoms and diseases using drugs and/or surgery. This is often called “modern medicine” or “Western medicine,” and is the type of medicine people are usually most familiar with (thanks to the various medical dramas on TV). However, D.O.s are beginning to emerge more in the medical field today. According to the American Osteopathic Association, the number of D.O.s in the U.S. has increased by an average of 24% every 5 years. D.O.s practice osteopathic medicine, which offers additional benefits to patients. They follow a much different philosophy when treating patients. Their approach is holistic, so they account for the body as a whole when diagnosing, treating, and preventing medical conditions.
Many people believe that M.D.s are more experienced, qualified doctors (which may be simply due to the fact that 67% of doctors in the U.S. are M.D.s). However, according to everydayhealth.com, D.O.s complete an additional 200 hours of training in osteopathic manipulative medicine, which actually helps them overcome fears of performing surgery and completing physical exams on patients. They are taught manipulation techniques of the musculoskeletal system to relieve a patient’s pain, while M.D.s are more likely to prescribe pain medication.
Regardless of the initials following your primary care physician’s name, you can rest assured that he or she is a highly educated, qualified doctor that ultimately has your best interest (good health) at heart. There are obviously situations when an M.D.’s philosophy of prescribing medications or performing surgery is necessary for a patient to survive and live a quality life, but a D.O.’s philosophy should be used to maintain good health in everyday life.
When choosing your primary care physician, you should first consider what qualities you value in a doctor. I personally found this doctor to be a D.O. not only as a patient, but also as a student who aspires to become a doctor that patients can count on to provide them with the best healthcare possible. Do your own research online by visiting your health clinic’s website to discover each doctor’s treatment philosophy and area(s) of specialty. Use this information to decide which doctor best fits your needs. It is very likely that you will find that doctor to be a D.O., too.
Ashlee Osier is from Bondurant, Iowa, and is currently attending the DMACC Boone Campus. Upon graduating with her A.S. degree in summer 2017, she plans to transfer to Simpson College to study neuroscience and chemistry. Her career goals include becoming an osteopathic physician dedicated to research in finding a cure for neurodegenerative diseases.