Opinion by Leah Barnard
As a first-year student majoring in biomedical sciences, I found the approval of plans to construct Xavier’s own college of osteopathic medicine quite exciting. This initiative marks a significant improvement for medical school-bound undergraduates, aligning harmoniously with the Jesuit values instilled in Xavier’s education. Nevertheless, there exists a noticeable stigma associated with those who seek to become doctors of osteopathic medicine (DO) when compared to those who follow the more traditional path to become Doctors of Medicine (MD).
Historically, the worlds of osteopathic medicine and allopathic medicine (MD) have often existed along distinct paths, each with its distinct philosophy and approach. While these differences have long ignited a debate regarding the other’s credibility and efficacy, it’s essential to acknowledge that these distinctions are increasingly blending in today’s dynamic and competitive healthcare landscape. The crux of the matter is that both DO and MD schools produce highly skilled and competent physicians, and we must recognize the credibility of both in the modern healthcare world.
Now more than ever, the acceptance rate for pre-med track undergraduates into medical schools is shockingly low. In the 2022-2023 admission cycle, a mere 42% of medical school applicants were extended offers of admission, underscoring the intense competition within the field. Importantly, this competition isn’t exclusive to any specific type of medical school. Both DO and MD programs boast equally competitive admission processes. The statistics affirm this, with the average MCAT score of DO applicants being 502.80 and 505.90 for MD applicants — the highest possible score being a 528 and the lowest being 472 — with only a few points difference. Other prominent stats, such as GPA, exhibit minimal variations between the two applicant pools.
Regarding education, the primary difference between the curriculum of DO and MD students is the additional training in osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) that DO students receive. OMT is a hands-on approach to diagnosing, treating and preventing medical conditions, including using the musculoskeletal system to promote overall health and well-being. In contrast, MD programs traditionally focus on biomedical sciences and do not require training in OMT. MD schools emphasize clinical diagnosis, treatment and research.
However, both DO and MD programs emphasize patient-centered care and are committed to providing quality healthcare. Medical students in both paths learn the fundamentals of diagnosis, treatment and patient management. Moreover, most of the foundational medical knowledge obtained by students in each program remains the same, covering a wide range of subjects. The shared focus on foundational knowledge and patient care ensures that healthcare professionals from both backgrounds are dedicated to addressing the holistic needs of their patients.
In the modern healthcare landscape, collaboration and multidisciplinary care are integral for providing the best patient outcomes. MDs and DOs are trained to work within diverse healthcare teams, enabling them to leverage their strengths to offer comprehensive care. The ability of DOs and MDs to work harmoniously in healthcare settings further underscores the credibility and integrity of both paths in the medical field.