About Allopathic and Osteopathic Medicine

Two types of programs, allopathic medicine (M.D.) and osteopathic medicine (D.O.), train students to become physicians. The credentials, training, jobs, and available specialties are the same for both. Allopathic and osteopathic physicians use a biological approach to healing. Physicians diagnose, treat, and work to prevent human illness and injury. They perform examinations, analyze medical histories, order and interpret diagnostic tests and develop treatment plans. Allopathic and osteopathic physicians are very similar in their approach to working with patients and the differences between them are more historical than current practice. The osteopathic approach is patient-oriented and uses a holistic approach to care. Osteopathic medicine also incorporates a treatment modality, Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM), which is a form of musculo-skeletal manipulation that is used both for diagnosis and treatment. MDs and DOs practice in all the same specialties. The residency system has now been combined.

Preparation and Applying
  • Observe physicians to make sure this is the right field for you and that you truly understand what it means to be an allopathic or osteopathic physician. Gaining additional volunteer or work experience in clinical settings is valuable to understanding healthcare delivery.
  • Medical schools will want to see you can handle a heavy course load while being active in extracurricular activities, providing community service, and gaining medical experience.
  • Many schools require a minimum grade of a C+ in all pre-med courses.
  • Competitive applicants to medical school have:
    • Strong academic performance (3.7 gpa for MD and 3.6 gpa for DO)
    • High scores on the MCAT (511+ for MD and 505+ for DO)
    • Leadership, teamwork, and communication skills
    • Undergraduate research experience
    • Significant shadowing/observation experience and hands-on patient care hours (~250 hours)
    • Strong positive letters of recommendation
  • Students apply for MD programs through an online application system called AMCAS; DO programs through AACOMAS; and Texas programs through TMDSAS.
  • AMCAS, TMDSAS, AACOMAS all open in May and should be submitted in June or July for best results.
  • Many factors will influence where you choose to apply. You do need to include the public school(s) where you are an in-state resident as this is often your best chance of admission.
Education and Licensure
  • You should complete a bachelor’s degree in a major of interest to you along with necessary prerequisite courses.
  • Medical school is a four-year program followed by on-the-job training (residency) which lasts 3-7 years depending on specialty. Subspecialization is accomplished through fellowships following the residency which can last several more years.
  • MDs and DOs are licensed nationally and by the state in which they practice.
  • Physicians must also pass board exams for certification in specialty areas.

Additional Resources