Of the over one million licensed physicians in the U.S., the majority of them – nine out of 10, in fact – are medical doctors, MDs.

However, if you are observant, you may notice two initials after your doctor’s name and it may be something a bit less familiar. More and more doctors are now receiving DO degrees, which stands for a doctor of osteopathic medicine. In fact, according to the American Osteopathic Association, the number of DOs surpassed the 100,000 mark for the very first time in 2017. This is more than triple the number there were just three decades ago.

Getting to Know the Various Professionals

When it comes to MDs and Dos, there are more things alike than there are different between them – at least within the U.S. Each one is a legit, licensed and trained physician who can diagnose diseases, prescribe medications and answer medical-related questions.

However, if a person is thinking about a career in the field of medicine, they are more likely to be an MD, because there are 147 schools in the U.S. and Canada, compared to 33 U.S. based DO programs. The primary difference is that a DO doctor is going to receive additional training in the area of musculoskeletal health.

The DOs More Hands-On Approach

When it comes to pharmacology, there aren’t many noticeable differences in an MD and DO; however, it is important to note that DOs receive 200 to 300 more hours of hands-on training than MDs.

Additionally, DOs are trained to ask their patients more questions, so they have a more thorough understanding of the individual’s lifestyle, which is something that can impact their condition. For example, with a chronic condition, such as diabetes, the medication being taken isn’t the only situation, but also what you are eating, who is cooking the meals and what is being prepared.

Due to this more intense look at a patient’s entire life, the DO has a better understanding of what medications may be beneficial, which may give them the ability to make a more informed decision regarding what to prescribe. However, this doesn’t mean that MDs aren’t qualified or able to prescribe proper medications, as this is also what they are trained to do.

Making a Choice

The decision of what type of doctor to see is a highly personal one. However, the majority of family physicians and general practitioners will have an MD connotation.