Is there a difference between an MD and a DO doctor?

In modern healthcare, understanding the education, licensure, and experience of the individuals taking care of them can be a confusing proposition for patients.

Different professional organizations are advocating to blur the lines between physicians and non-physicians. These days, there are many situations where patients have to be vigilant, observant, and inquisitive to know whether a physician or non-physician is seeing and treating them.

Some nursing and physician assistant schools offer doctorate degrees in their respective fields. When recipients of such degrees call themselves “Dr.” to patients, some people have described it as a masquerading fraud.

Even among physicians, though, there are different educational paths and degrees. Everyone is familiar with the designation “MD,” which means “doctor of medicine.” Less known, but also a valid path to becoming a physician, is the “DO” degree, which stands for “doctor of osteopathic medicine.”

Around 80 percent of physicians educated in the United States go to MD medical school, with the balance of 20 percent graduating from DO medical schools. DO schools are generally considered less competitive than MD schools, yet also require extra coursework in their curriculum.

The Mayo Clinic describes MDs as doctors who attended and graduated from a “conventional medical school,” and DOs as doctors who attended and graduated from an “osteopathic medical school.” More specifically, it points out that the main differentiation between the two physician types is that osteopathic physicians include manual medicine therapies, including manipulation of the spine or massage therapy, in their treatments.

Regardless of the path they take to start their medical careers, MD and DO physicians must pass state licensing exams, complete years of specialized residency training, and often end up in the same types of positions at the same types of hospitals.

In my practice of handling medical malpractice cases mainly in Texas, I’ve encountered MD and DO physicians in a variety of fields. There have been residents and fellows, and attendings in virtually every type of medical specialty, including pediatrics, internal medicine, cardiology, neurology, radiology, neurosurgery, and surgery.

In the context of medical malpractice litigation, both MD and DO physicians are held to the same standard of care. The standard of care is what a reasonably prudent physician (or specialist) would do in the same or similar circumstances.

And, unlike nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, or physician assistants, only physicians are allowed to offer expert testimony about causation, or how an alleged deviation from the standard of care caused a patient injury or harm.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor medical or other healthcare in Texas, then contact a top-rated experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.