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

Full-Time Staff
Ms. Quo Vadis M. Webster, MA, LPC
Director of Premedical Program
(504) - 520-7437



Overview of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) (Info #7-updated 7/3/16)

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 145 allopathic medical schools. The second is the D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy), offered by 33 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 arose in the nineteenth century as an attempt to reform what is now known as allopathic medicine to acknowledge the body's innate ability to heal itself. 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 throughout the United 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, known as osteopathic manipulative medicine, 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, 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 and take the MCAT; students should review the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) Osteopathic Medical College Information Book for school-specific requirements. He/she then enters a four-year osteopathic medical school which is devoted to study in the basic medical sciences 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 required 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 medical students may enter the National Residency Match Program (NRMP) with allopathic medical students and/or the American Osteopathic Association Match Program in order to be reviewed by residency training programs and "match" in a specific medical specialty. FYI, osteopathic students who wish to enter NRMP must take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). 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. Fellowship programs are available for physicians who wish to receive more specialized training in a specific area.
  • Educational Requirements for Entry: A minimum of 40 semester hours of specified mathematics and science courses. An undergraduate degree is also recommended. Some schools may have ADDITIONAL science and non-science requirements; students are encouraged to review the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) publication Osteopathic Medical College Information Book available http://www.aacom.org/news-and-events/publications/cib or in the Premedical Office. Information may also be obtained by visiting official osteopathic medical school websites.
  • Admission Test: Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Visit https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/ for test information and registration.
  • Content of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): There are four parts...
    • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (Concepts from chemical and physical sciences as applied to biological systems),
    • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (Analyze, evaluate, and apply information from a wide range of social sciences and humanities),
    • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (Concepts from biological and biochemical sciences as applied to living organisms), and
    • 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).
  • Scoring on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): Five (5) scores are reported on the MCAT: one for each of the four test sections and one combined (total) score. Each of the four sections will be scored from a low of 118 to a high of 132, with a midpoint of 125. The total score is a combination of scores from the four sections. The total score ranges from 472 to 528, with a midpoint of 500. MCAT and GPA ranges for students accepted into allopathic (M.D.) medical schools can be found in the most recent edition of Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR), an online resource from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). A copy of frequented sections of the online MSAR is available for review in the Premed Office. Please note that the number of applications to medical school has increased dramatically in the past few years, a factor which seems to be translating into the need for higher MCAT scores to gain admission. Students who wish to receive feedback on their scores from the Premedical Office should be sure to release their scores to XU's Premedical Advisor when asked to do so during the MCAT registration process. Additionally, students should rely on medical school-specific matriculant data found in MSAR to evaluate MCAT scores, GPA, and other acceptance factors. Go to https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/ for details regarding the MCAT and MCAT Exam Statistics. Go to https://www.aamc.org/data/facts/ to view comprehensive data on U.S. allopathic (M.D.) medical school applicants and matriculants.
  • 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 TMDSAS online application.
  • General description of the application process: Evaluation of an application for most health professions schools 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 and other required entrance exam 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, or other health professional?" 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:

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