Premedical Office
Xavier University
1 Drexel Drive
Box 120C
New Orleans, LA 70125

Full-Time Staff
Quo Vadis Maria Webster, MA, LPC
Premedical Adviser
(504) - 520-7437
Part-Time Staff
JW Carmichael, Jr.
Director of Premed Program
Professor of Chemistry



An Overview of Osteopathic Medicine (Info #7-updated 7/22/13)

This document is one in a series designed to provide basic information about mainline health professions and the Premedical Office at Xavier University of Louisiana.

There are TWO Kinds of Medical Degrees Recognized in the United States: There are two basic kinds of medical degrees offered in the United States. The most common is the M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) degree, offered by the nation's 141 allopathic medical schools. The second is the D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy), offered by 29 osteopathic medical schools in the U.S. Both types of physicians are legally recognized to be equivalent in every state in the United States. However, because there are so many more allopathic medical schools, most Americans think of "allopathic medicine" as "medicine" and may not be aware that osteopathic physicians exist. It should be noted that in recent years, several osteopathic medical schools have opened in the southern part of the U.S. (e.g. Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia), giving more patients and prospective physicians in this region exposure to osteopathic medicine. Osteopathic medicine was founded in the nineteenth century by an allopathic physician in an attempt to reform what is now known as allopathic medicine to include something akin to modern "preventive medicine." This document is devoted to osteopathic medicine. Info #6 in this series provides information about allopathic medicine.

What is Osteopathic Medicine? Osteopathic medicine, like allopathic medicine, is one of the healing arts and offers complete health service. Osteopathic medicine provides all the benefits of modern medicine (e.g. prescription drugs, surgery, etc.). However, osteopathic medicine offers the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system of therapy known as osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) that uses special techniques on the muscular and skeletal systems to assist in treating and preventing disease and injury. Osteopathic medicine stresses that structure influences function and that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. Many OMM techniques are aimed at reducing or eliminating the impediments to proper structure and function in an effort to promote the body's self-healing mechanism. Another hallmark of osteopathic medicine is its focus on preventive medicine.

What Kind of Services Do Osteopathic Physicians Provide? Osteopathic physicians (D.O.'s) can gain full licensure in all fifty states to use all of the diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, including prescribing drugs and performing surgery, used by allopathic physicians (M.D.'s). In addition, the osteopathic physician has received special training to help him/her understand the relationship between structure and organ functions and he/she is specially trained to use manipulative therapy to correct structural problems. Although osteopathic medicine has traditionally emphasized family, community, and preventive medicine and D.O.'s practice in these fields, modern osteopathic physicians can enter many of the same specialities available to allopathic physicians including: anesthesiology, dermatology, general practice, internal medicine, neurology and psychiatry, ophthalmology, otorhinolaryngology, orthopedic surgery, pathology, pediatrics, proctology, radiology, rehabilitation medicine, and surgery.

What Kind of Education Does an Osteopathic Physician Receive? The education of an osteopathic physician is very similar to that of an allopathic physician. The osteopathic physician must first complete a set of basic requirements at an undergraduate college (general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, etc.), take the MCAT, and (normally) obtain a college degree; students should review the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) Osteopathic Medical College Information Book for any school-specific additional requirements. He/she then enters a four-year training program which (usually) is devoted to study in the basic sciences (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, bacteriology, embryology, and pharmacology) during the first two years and clinical training during the last two (FYI, students are also trained to use OMM techniques during this time). The osteopathic physician then takes the licensure exam and enters a residency program in which he/she gains additional training under the close supervision of a practicing physician. The primary difference between the training of an osteopathic physician from that of an allopathic physician is that the osteopathic physician also completes special courses which make it possible to recognize structure problems and learns the art of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) to aid in structural diagnosis. Almost all of the basic information from Info #6 regarding allopathic medicine also applies to osteopathic medicine, with the exception of OMM.

Basic Data:

  • Time Required to Complete Medical Education: Four years enrolled in a medical school in order to obtain a D.O. degree and at least three years in a residency program gaining advanced training, depending on the speciality chosen, before beginning practice. During the first two years of medical school in the United States, students generally take science classes similar to those taken in undergraduate schools except that each course covers a great deal more content than would an undergraduate one. During the last two years of medical school, medical students generally rotate through a number of clinical activities where they receive training on an individual basis from practicing physicians in different specialties. Similar to allopathic physicians, osteopathic physicians must also take and pass several "levels" of a licensure examination, specifically COMPLEX-USA. During the fourth year of medical school, osteopathic and allopathic medical students enter the National Residency Match Program (NRMP) in order to be reviewed by residency training programs and "match" in a specific medical specialty. After completing the four-year medical school curriculum, the student receives a D.O. degree, begins residency training, and completes any licensure requirements. The osteopathic physician generally completes a minimum of three years in a residency program, depending on the specialty, under the supervision of experienced physicians.
  • Educational Requirements for Entry: A basic minimum of 40 semester hours of mathematics and science in specified courses. An undergraduate degree is also recommended. (See Info4 and Info5 for additional information). Some schools may have ADDITIONAL requirements; students are encouraged to review the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) publication Osteopathic Medical College Information Book available at www.aacom.org or in the Premedical Office.
  • Admissions Test: Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). For registration and additional information, visit www.aamc.org and click on "MCAT." Be advised that a major revision of the MCAT has recently taken place, and as a result, the newly revised test will be administered starting in 2015. For details regarding the revision, please go to https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/ .
  • Content of the CURRENTLY ADMINISTERED Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): There are four parts to the MCAT...
    • Biological Sciences (Questions from General Biology and Organic Chemistry),
    • Physical Sciences (Questions from General Chemistry and General Physics),
    • Verbal Reasoning (Questions drawn from humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Designed to examine students' abilities to comprehend, reason, and think critically), and
    • Voluntary Trial Section (included in 2013 MCAT administrations; test questions for future version of MCAT).
  • Content of FUTURE ADMINISTRATIONS (i.e. beginning in 2015) of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): There will be four parts to the 2015 MCAT...
    • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (Concepts from biological and biochemical sciences as applied to living organisms),
    • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (Concepts from chemical and physical sciences as applied to biological systems),
    • Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior (Concepts from psychology, sociology, biology, research methods and statistics as applied to the psychological sociocultural determinants of health), and
    • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (Analyze, evaluate, and apply information from a wide range of social sciences and humanities).
  • Scoring on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): Three scores are currently reported on the MCAT for each of the scored sections on a scale between 1 (lowest) and 15 (highest) with a recent national average between "8" and "9". Past experience has indicated that anything lower than a "6" in any area will likely keep you out no matter how high your grades are.
  • Where one submits an application for D.O. school: Osteopathic medical schools in the U.S. participate in the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) centralized online application service called the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS). After submitting this application, most schools require applicants to complete school-specific secondary or supplemental applications. If you are applying to an osteopathic medical school in Texas that participates in the Texas Medical & Dental Schools Applications Service (TMDSAS), you must submit the special TMDSAS online application.
  • General description of the application process: Evaluation of an application for medical/dental school generally takes place in two stages. In the first stage, admissions committees ask "Can the applicant handle the academic load (the equivalent of about 40 hours a semester) ?". Grades, MCAT/DAT scores, and (sometimes) letters of evaluation are used to answer this question. If the answer to the first question is "Yes", the admissions committees then proceed to the second stage to ask "Will the applicant be a good physician/dentist?" Evaluations and the written portions of the application (e.g. essays, post-secondary experiences, etc.) are used to obtain a preliminary answer to this question. If it appears that the answer to this question is "Yes", applicants are usually invited in for an interview; after which, a final decision is made.

Where to Get Additional Information:

  • About the general requirements/application process: Attend ALL scheduled Premed Meetings (group and individual) for your class during your enrollment at Xavier (look for signs in NCF Buildings announcing the date, time, and place) and check for information in and around the Premed Office. Also, be sure to check your email DAILY for important messages announcing meetings, deadlines, summer programs, etc. Information may also be obtained by visiting http://www.xula.edu/premed/.
  • About the MCAT, the admissions test required by all D.O. schools: Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), owned by AAMC, www.aamc.org or visit the Premedical Office and see Info6 (Allopathic Medicine) in this series.
  • About the application process (osteopathic schools have a centralized application service similar to that of allopathic schools): American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS), a service of AACOM, www.aacom.org or visit the Premedical Office; more information about osteopathic medicine as a profession is available at http://www.osteopathic.org/Pages/default.aspx.
  • About the Louisiana Osteopathic Medical Association (LOMA): Visit http://www.loma-net.org/ .
  • About requirements for individual schools:
    • From the AACOM publication Osteopathic Medical College Information Book available at www.aacom.org or in the Premedical Office.
    • From the osteopathic medical schools directly from their websites (complete list available at www.aacom.org)
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