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This is a reply to Kim Bosco's question about osteopaths and is also for
general information.
A D.O. is a fully licensed physician in every sense of the word.  I am a
student of osteopathy at a school in Iowa.  Currently, there are sixteen
schools which offer the D.O. degree and a seventeenth will open this Fall.
 Osteopaths are trained in all aspects of medicine and can be found
practicing in all fifty states and in all specialty areas.  Traditionally,
osteopathic physicians were family practitioners, but over the last twenty to
forty years, this has changed.  Students are required to obtain a bachelor's
degree to matriculate to an osteopathic school.  They are required to
complete four years of instruction in classroom studies and clinical
experience.  The certification exam for osteopaths is separate from
allopathic exams, but osteopathic students are eligible to sit for the
allopathic exams if they choose to.  The answer to the question of prestige
of the degree rests with the patient.  Many people choose only to see D.O.'s
just as others choose only to see M.D.'s.
So the obvious question is: "What is the difference?"
The answer is that philosophical differences initially separated the two
professions.  The osteopathic school of thought started with a man named
Andrew Taylor Still who was trained as an M.D. but who was forced to watch
helplessly as two of his children succumbed to disease that he had no power
to destroy.  His thought was to help the body heal itself.  To that end, he
studied anatomy heavily and without going into too much detail, came up with
a treatment regimen which included the realignment of the spine and overall
soma.  In fact, a student of his went off after his education with Dr. Still
and started teaching chiropractic, but that's another story.
So, initially, osteopaths were trained to manipulate and encourage healing.
 After Still's death in 1917, the profession opted for a more mainstream
education and incorporporated more and more clinical knowledge, etc. until we
reached the stage we are at today.  Of recent note is the turn of mainstream
medicine toward more alternative forms of treatment.  In other words, as the
osteopaths have moved toward allopathic medicine, the allopaths have moved
toward osteopathic medicine in some ways.  Both professions can now claim to
be wholistic practitioners.  The only real difference is the teaching format
and the teaching of manipulative techniques.
I should also say that there is a fair amount of debate about this issue and
some of the others I have brought up in this explanation, but I've tried to
be as general and fact-based as possible.
You also asked about whether a D.O. must disclose whether he is a D.O. to his
patients.  Frankly, patients rarely ask.  If a person is wearing a white coat
and their name is Doctor Soandso, that's good enough.  If someone asked me if
I was a D.O., I'd tell them I was with pride.  I feel that my education is
every bit as good as anyone attending an allopathic school and, perhaps, in
some ways, better.  If I had my choice of allopathic or osteopathic school, I
would choose the latter again.
If you couldn't tell, I like the profession almost as much as a good soapbox
to stand on.  But I have to get back to my studies.
Sincerely,
Colin D. Irish, MSIII UOMHS-COMS
Director
Student Osteopathic Medical Association Foundation