Students struggling to get into traditional medical schools should consider applying to a D.O. program instead.
Studying osteopathic medicine won't land you an M.D., but it's a good option for anyone aspiring to work in primary care or one of the less-competitive specialties.
Fewer than 50 percent of medical school applicants to traditional allopathic medical schools are accepted, which leaves many applicants wondering about their other options. These include osteopathic or off-shore medical schools.
For many applicants who do not want to consider leaving the U.S. to attend medical school, enrolling in an osteopathic medical school is the only realistic way to practice medicine. And with the number of osteopathic medical schools in the U.S. increasing, this has become a very attractive option.
1. What is the difference between an allopathic and osteopathic medical education? The most obvious difference between allopathic and osteopathic schools is that graduates of allopathic medical schools earn a medical doctor degree – an M.D. – whereas osteopathic graduates earn a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree – a D.O. So, simply looking at the initials next to a doctor’s name will tell you what type of medical school he or she attended.
The other significant way in which osteopathic and allopathic medical educations differ is that osteopathic medical students learn osteopathic manipulative medicine of the spine, bones and muscles as an adjunct to diagnosing and treating patients. Students spend about 200 hours of their osteopathic medical educations learning about OMM.
In addition, osteopathic education in theory puts a greater emphasis on the importance of holistic care, which highlights the value of getting to know patients as people and carefully considering the value of preventive care and patient education. In my experience, however, allopathic medical schools espouse similar ideals.
2. Do students apply to osteopathic medical school primarily because it is easier to get accepted? For many applicants, the answer to this question is yes, but getting accepted to an osteopathic school still isn’t easy. You still need to do very well in medical school prerequisites and on the MCAT and must pursue meaningful extracurricular activities.
And the competition for admission is intense. Last year, nearly 16, 500 applicants vied for 5, 600 first year spots. But overall, students accepted to osteopathic medical schools have lower average MCAT scores and GPAs than their allopathic counterparts.
Last year’s entering class, for example, had an average MCAT score of 26 and an overall GPA of 3.4. This compares with an average MCAT of 31 and overall GPA of 3.69 for allopathic students who matriculated last year.
3. What do osteopathic schools practice and what are my chances of getting the residency I want? More than half of osteopathic medical school graduates, who may continue their training in allopathic or osteopathic residency programs, practice in primary care fields, including family practice, internal medicine and pediatrics.