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What's the difference between an osteopathic physician and an osteopath?

osteopathic physician
a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) who graduates from a U.S. medical college as a fully licensed physician

osteopath
a non-physician practitioner trained outside the United States

  • Possess full, unlimited medical practice rights
  • Considered an archaic term when applied to graduates of osteopathic medical schools in the U.S.
  • Have achieved nationally recognized academic and professional standards established in their country
  • Have achieved nationally recognized academic and professional standards established in their country
  • Can provide diagnosis and treatment
  • May not prescribe pharmaceuticals or perform surgery, unlike DOs
  • May pursue any branch of specialized medical care, just like MDs
  • Can independently practice diagnosis and provide treatment
  • DOs practice in the U.S. or in one of the more than 65 countries that give them full medical practice rights.
  • 40,000+ osteopaths currently, mostly in France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, and Canada
  • Undergraduate degree, pre-med coursework and a Medical College Admission Test are required before osteopathic medical students can pursue their DO degree. Graduates then take 3-10 years of specialty residency and fellowship training, complete licensing and specialty board examinations, and pursue a license to practice in the state/s (and/or countries) in which they wish to be established
  • Master’s degree or bachelor’s degree equivalent is acceptable for post-professional training



So what do osteopathyosteopath, and college of osteopathy have in common? 

These terms fail to properly describe the osteopathic medical profession on a global basis. Osteopaths and colleges (or schools) of osteopathy should not be used to refer to the practitioners of osteopathic medicine nor the U.S. osteopathic medical education system.

Do Say:

Don't Say:

  • Approximately 5,000 new osteopathic physicians enter the U.S. health care workforce each year. 
  • Approximately 5,000 new osteopaths enter the U.S. health care workforce each year. 
  • The United States has an estimated 74,000 fully licensed osteopathic physicians
  • The United States has an estimated 74,000 fully licensed osteopaths
  • U.S. colleges of osteopathic medicine graduate more and more students each year.
  • Colleges of osteopathy are graduating more and more students each year.
  • Osteopathic medicine treats the person as a whole. 
  • Osteopathy treats the person as a whole.