Of the approximately one million licensed physicians in the United States, the vast majority—9 in 10—hold the MD (medical doctor) degree. MDs treat disease/ pain by prescribing drugs and/or surgery. If you were looking for a primary care physician, chances are he or she will be an MD.
But an increasing number of doctors now have DO (doctor of osteopathic medicine) degrees. The first school of Osteopathy was established in 1892.
From their first day of freshman year, both MDs and DOs follow a similar nine-plus-year path. They earn bachelor’s degrees, followed by four years of medical school. There, they learn the same basic facts about anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology. However, osteopathic medical students take approximately 200 additional hours of training in the art of osteopathic manipulative medicine. This system of hands-on techniques helps alleviate pain, restores motion, supports the body’s natural functions and influences the body’s structure to help it function more efficiently.
A third (more recent) option is a licensed naturopathic physician (ND). The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC) was established in February 2001. There are currently eight schools in the US and Canada. A licensed naturopathic physician (ND) attends a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an MD, but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. Not licensed in all states yet, but they are recognized and licensed in Arizona.
To me, the additional training and the difference in treatment philosophies would generally give DOs and NDs a substantial edge over MDs.
Victoria and I have a primary care physician who is not an MD or a DO, or an ND, but equivalent in terms of training, skills, licensing and certification. She can prescribe medications just like DOs or MDs. Kathleen has a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, plus certified Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) So, here’s yet a fourth category of primary care provider.
If you decide to look for an alternative primary care provider, do the research and decided which medical philosophy feels best to you. Talk to friends and family whose health perspective you respect. Talk about who they see, and why they would recommend their doctor or not. We connected with Dr. Kathleen through a close friend.
This has been a very enlightening project for me, and I hope useful to you. I’d love to hear from you.