Osteopathy is a type of health care that looks at the human musculoskeletal
system's role in health and disease. The musculoskeletal system is an important
part of the body because it influences the condition of the body's other systems.
Osteopathic physicians use modern medical technology and hands-on diagnosis.
They aim to improve the body's overall health.
"There is a desperate need for physicians in this country, especially for
those who are willing to work in underserved areas," says Donald Haight. He
is the director of admissions at Touro University-California's College of
"The deciding factor for me to choose an osteopathic medical program is
the philosophy of the profession," says Jennie Shen. She's a second-year osteopathic
medical student at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. "Osteopathic
medical doctors believe that treatment should be applied to the whole person
instead of just the disease. Approaches are made not only to treatment of
the problem experience, but the overall well-being of the patient [as well]."
Students who want to become osteopathic physicians must attend medical
school. Since medical school is graduate-level, you will first have to
complete your undergraduate degree. Most medical schools want you to take
the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) as part of your application package.
Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine, for instance, looks for
undergraduates to have earned a fairly high GPA, be good students, and have
some experience in health care services.
Science programs are preferred in undergraduates' studies, including chemistry,
biology, zoology, biochemistry, physics, as well as English, behavioral science,
math and computer science.
Haight explains that it isn't just medical schools' preference for science
courses that makes it difficult to choose a non-science major. Doing well
on the MCAT and satisfying medical school prerequisites requires taking so
many science courses that it simply leaves little time for other areas of
According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine,
there are currently 25 colleges of osteopathic medicine and three branch campuses
that offer the Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree.
Admission is highly competitive. Three to four thousand students apply
to Touro University's College of Osteopathic Medicine in a year and only 135
make the cut.
"You have to know what you want to do and ask the [undergraduate] premed
advisor for guidance in selecting courses each semester that will prepare
you for the MCAT when you want to take it," says Haight.
Communicating well with your patients is key in the holistic approach of
osteopathy. Experience working in health care prior to or during your studies
can be a great help in this regard. It's also an asset when applying to medical
"Be certain to pick up some clinical experience. This could range anywhere
from volunteer work to shadowing a physician. Shadowing a physician is not
required, but it's nice to see," says Haight.
Some other things to consider are that tuition to medical school is expensive,
and you will have textbooks and living expenses on top of that. Also, there
are few osteopathic medical schools in North America, so you may have to move
or commute to attend school.
Occupational Outlook HandbookFor more information related to this field of study, see: Physicians
Osteopathy -- HealthWorld OnlineLinks to good information
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic MedicineInformation about all the colleges offering the DO degree
Want a quick overview of what this program is about? Check out Just the Facts for
a simple description.