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This article covers some of the similarities and differences between an MD degree and a DO degree. I will present some of the common misconceptions about each and help you decide which fundamental practice is right for you.

By the time you get into Biology 2 or the start of Organic Chemistry, chances are that you are gearing up towards your preparation for starting Medical School.  You have heard from family and friends that it is paramount to get into a research project as soon as possible and you should be volunteering every free chance you get.  Through all this chaos, you may have come across the acronyms DO and MD.  These can be confusing points and as you shadow through hospitals, attending physicians may ask you if you are considering allopathic or osteopathic medicine and if you do not know the fundamental differences, you could be answering the questions all wrong.  Some may have a vague understanding and know that "the MD is the desirable degree while a DO is an easier course," but unfortunately, there is no great differential to know if one degree prepares you better for a course in Medicine.  In this article, I will cover some of the fundamental similarities and differences between the two degrees and then give you some insight into how patients will actually respond to each type of doctor when they enter the examining room.  

Defining the Terms:  What is an MD and DO degree? 

Before we start our exploration into the field, it is important to understand the fundamental aim of each of these professions.  An MD degree stands for Doctor of Medicine and is synonymous with the term "allopathic doctor."  This profession is based on the fundamental idea that a sick patient will respond differently to a treatment than a healthy patient.  For example, an antibiotic will not alter the health of a healthy patient while may vastly improve the health of an ill patient.  

Now we come to the DO degree.  This stands for Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and it differs in the fundamental idea of how to treat a patient.  These physicians train under a more holistic approach to the patient.  When considering a disease, physicians with a DO background will consider the environment a patient lives in, his predisposing factors, and nutritional status in order maximize a patients response to therapy.  Pain in the lower back could lead to muscle manipulation of the knees, hips, and chest in order to re-balance a patient.  Now that we covered that, let's get started on the real material. 

Similarities Between an MD and DO degree

One of the most important things to realize between a DO and MD degree is that they are both fully-licensed doctors.  Both types of doctors are highly qualified and will be able to make the same difficult decisions in patient management.  You are able to prescribe the same types of medications to the patients and you will be able to experience the same joy of drowning in paperwork when the hospital administration gets involved.  A physician from both of these fields must complete the same 4-years of medical training and their residency programs in order to get licensed.  With one of the two types of degrees, a physician will be able to practice medicine anywhere in the United States and they will have access to the same specializations if they qualify.  

When you enter a hospital, patients really do not care where your degree is from as long as you are able to fully treat the patient.  In reality, most patients actually think the DO on the doctor's ID badge is short for "Doctor" so they will not question your training once you begin practicing.  As the training for DO programs improves, they are as skilled as their MD counterparts so the once popular saying that "good DO doctors are about as skilled as a bad MD doctor" is entirely false. 

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