Osteopathic physicians, better known as DOs, work in partnership with their patients. They consider the impact that lifestyle and community have on the health of each individual, and they work to erase barriers to good health.
DOs are trained to look at the whole person from their first days of medical school, which means they see each person as more than a collection of body parts that may become injured or diseased. DOs are taught that the whole person is greater than the sum of the parts. This means that osteopathic medical students learn to integrate the patient into the health care process as a partner. They are trained to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds and they get the opportunity to practice these skills in the classroom with simulated patients.
Because of this whole-person approach to medicine, approximately 60 percent of all DOs choose to practice in the primary care disciplines of family practice, general internal medicine, and pediatrics.
Osteopathic medical students also learn the art of osteopathic manipulative medicine, a system of hands-on techniques that help alleviate pain, restore motion and influence the body’s structure to help it function more efficiently. One key concept osteopathic medical students learn is that structure influences function. Thus, if there is a problem in one part of the body’s structure, then function in that area will also be affected.
Another integral tenet of osteopathic medicine is the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Many of osteopathic medicine’s manipulative techniques are aimed at reducing or eliminating the impediments to proper structure and function so the self-healing mechanism can assume its role in restoring the person to health.