M.D. vs D.O.

Is there a difference?

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Greg Nieckula, D.O., Internal medicine physician with CHI Memorial Internal Medicine Associates – Signal Mountain

As a doctor of osteopathy or D.O., I get asked this question all the time! And it’s one that I like to answer. There are effectively two pathways to earn a medical degree and two types of practicing physicians in the United States: allopathic physicians (M.D.s) and osteopathic physicians (D.O.s). Both complete four years of medical school, are licensed by the same state boards, receive advanced training in diagnosing and treatment of illnesses and disorders, and provide preventative care. M.D.s and D.O.s both provide diagnosis and treatment recommendations based on scientific conclusions.

As for the differences these days, there aren’t many. It boils down to the teaching philosophy. 

People are most familiar with the M.D. credentials that are informed by the allopathic approach. This method is a system of medical practice that combats disease by using remedies (like prescription drugs or surgery) to overcome the effects of a disease. The osteopathic approach sees things a little bit differently. It looks beyond the symptoms of an illness to examine the whole person. This approach emphasizes the integration of the entire body’s systems and drives the osteopathic method.

I personally decided to pursue my medical training to become a D.O. because my personality aligned with this philosophy of not treating a disease or symptom but instead putting my focus on taking care of human beings.

Sometimes people will also ask which type of degree is better. I don’t believe there’s an answer to that question. There are people who are hesitant to seek care from a doctor of osteopathy, and some seek me out specifically because of it. I think it’s all about your perspective and how you connect personally with your healthcare provider.  

When asked, I always recommend that people choose their physician based on their individual character and the level of medical care they provide – regardless of their title. When you decide based on these grounds, it sets you up for a solid, open and honest relationship between you and your physician, which I believe contributes to a healthier life.

Do you have a relationship with a physician you trust? If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nieckula, please call (423) 886-2004.

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Karen Long
Media Communications Specialist 
e: karen_long@memorial.org

Doctor Talk, CHI Memorial's blog, focuses on health and welness.