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M.D. Versus D.O.: Similarities and Differences

Moreland OB-GYN doctor, Dr. Gregory, with a patient in Watertown.

The difference between a physician who is a “M.D.” and a physician who is a “D.O.” is subtle and sometimes confusing. The initials “M.D.” are usually quite familiar for patients, but a “D.O.” behind a name might not be as familiar. Understanding the similarities and differences of each will help any patient find the type of physician that best suits their needs.

M.D. Versus D.O.

The initials “M.D.” stand for “Doctor of Medicine” and indicate that the physician has been awarded a degree from an allopathic medical school. The initials D.O. stand for “Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.” A D.O. is granted to physicians who graduate from an osteopathic medical school. Osteopathic medicine is an approach to the practice of medicine that focuses on the unity of all body systems.
A D.O. is granted to physicians who graduate from an osteopathic medical school. Osteopathic medicine is simply a practice of medicine with a focus on the unity of all body systems.

What Does a M.D. and a D.O. Have in Common?

While the average person is probably more familiar with a “M.D.” behind a physician’s name, they will find that a D.O. can have the same requirements and qualifications as an M.D.

The two are similar in important ways, including that both a M.D. and a D.O.:

  • Attend medical school, a residency, where they learn the same things. Upon completion, they both leave medical school certified to see patients, diagnose conditions, prescribe medications, and perform surgeries. 
  • Meet the same requirements to practice medicine from their state's licensing board. 
  • Practice in all 50 states. 
  • Perform in any specialty. 
  • Examine and treat patients with methods based on scientific conclusions.

How Does a M.D. Differ From a D.O.?

While a M.D. and a D.O. have the same amount of education and qualifications, there is one big difference between the two. A D.O. goes to medical school, but they differ from an M.D. in the focus of their training and their philosophy when it comes to patient care.

An M.D. is traditionally trained when it comes to diagnosing patients and treating conditions. An M.D. is trained with a focus on medicine where the physician observes the patient’s symptoms and treats them directly.

Meanwhile, a D.O. practices osteopathic medicine which means they view the patient more holistically beyond the symptoms that are being presented. A D.O. will consider a patient’s entire body system, their nutrition, and their everyday environment to appropriately diagnose and treat a patient.

A D.O. also receives an additional 200 hours of training in the skill of osteopathic manipulative medicine. This means that if a patient presents with muscle pain, a D.O. may choose to manipulate the musculoskeletal tissue to relieve pain.

A D.O.’s Approach to Pregnancy Planning and Care

A D.O. providing a pregnancy planning and pregnancy care to her patient.According to an article in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, a woman’s entire body and system processes change and shift when trying to accommodate a growing fetus. Because of the stress on a woman's body as pregnancy advances, it isn’t uncommon to experience musculoskeletal misalignment which causes pain and discomfort in expectant mothers.

A D.O. might be able to help alleviate this pain and discomfort through their use of osteopathic manipulation techniques from soft tissue general manipulations to full manipulations like a chiropractor would perform. A D.O. can help with natural relief from pain from expanding bellies and shifting pelvic bones.

A Collaborative Medical Care Team Is the Best Choice

Moreland OBGYN staff smiling for a picture at the Oconomowoc location.

Whether they are D.O.s or M.D.s, the providers at Moreland OB-GYN are all dedicated to working together and supporting one another to ensure that Moreland patients get the best possible care in a manner that best suits their needs. Our physicians are dedicated to providing excellence in women’s health.

The care providers at Moreland OB-GYN offer complete services for obstetrics, gynecology, preventative health, fertility, surgery, and ultrasound. With nine locations to conveniently serve you in Waukesha, Oconomowoc, Milwaukee, Mukwonago, and the surrounding communities, we pride ourselves on leading women to better health.

Learn more about our physicians and services, or contact us today to request an appointment.

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