There are two types of physicians fully licensed to practice medicine in all 50 states: those holding the MD degree and those who have earned the DO -- doctor of osteopathic medicine -- degree.
Both types of physicians are licensed to perform surgery and prescribe medicine in hospitals, clinics, and private practices throughout the U.S. Osteopathic physicians offer all the services M.D.s do -- and more.
Osteopathic medicine was developed in 1874 by an MD named Andrew Taylor Still who was dissatisfied with the effectiveness of 19th century medicine. Because Dr. Still felt many medications of his day were ineffective and even harmful, he began an in-depth study into the attributes of good health in order to better understand the process of disease.
As a result of his studies, Dr. Still founded a philosophy of medicine focusing on the unity of all body parts. He identified the musculoskeletal system -- the system of bones and muscles that makes up about two-thirds of the body's mass -- as a key element of health. He recognized the body's ability to heal itself and stressed preventive medicine, eating properly, and staying fit.
Dr. Still pioneered the concept of "wellness" more than 100 years ago. Today, osteopathic physicians carry on his tradition, combining modern medical treatments with suggestions about lifestyle and attitude changes that don't just fight illness, but prevent it as well.
Just as Dr. Still brought his new philosophy of medicine to the people of the Missouri frontier in 1874, today's osteopathic physicians often serve populations in need. Although DOs can specialize in every recognized area of medicine, from neonatology to neurosurgery, more than half of all osteopathic physicians practice in primary care areas, such as pediatrics, general practice, obstetrics/gynecology, and internal medicine. Additionally, many DOs fill a critical need for family doctors by practicing in small towns and rural areas.
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Florida Osteopathic Medical Association (FOMA) | Tallahassee, FL