Open Enrollment - Page 14 - D.O. or M.D. ?

Open Enrollment
- Page 14
D.O. or M.D. ?
A doctor is a doctor, no matter the initial after a name

By Linda L. Esterson
Contributing Writer

Where the medical field is concerned, many designation letters are thrown around – R.N., D.N.P., R.T., D.D.S. Some are easy to determine, while others may be different but have a similar meaning.

When comparing D.O. and M.D., the designation may be different, but the meaning is primarily the same: M.D. stands for Doctor of Medicine and D.O. stands for Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.

The American Medical Association defines a physician as “an individual who has received a ‘Doctor of Medicine’ or a ‘Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine’ degree or an equivalent degree following successful completion of a prescribed course of study from a school of medicine or osteopathic medicine.

According to Randi Braman, D.O., a partner in BW Primary Care in Eldersburg and Owings Mills, most people have seen a D.O. at some point. According to the American Osteopathic Association, D.O.’s account for 5 ½ percent of all U.S. physicians and 15 percent of military physicians. About 1,000 doctors of osteopathic medicine practice in the State of Maryland. Most practices, she adds, employ physicians with M.D. and D.O. study.

The main difference, Braman says, is the training. Osteopathic training relates a more holistic focus, relating back to the spine and musculoskeletal system. Osteopathic trained physicians learn manipulative therapy as part of their medical studies. The manipulation involves minimal movements and focusing on pressure points, positioning and slight movements integrated with breathing and moving the spine.

“It’s a cross between chiropractic and massage,” she explains.

The medical doctor focuses on the pathophysiology behind disease and works to identify signs and symptoms to be able diagnose and treat disease, explains Whitney R. Matz, M.D., a local emergency physician.

“These days, there’s really not that much difference between an M.D. and a D.O.,” she says. “Most patients don’t even know which one their doctor is.”

The scope of practice is the same, adds Chad Zooker,M.D.,an orthopedic sportsmedicine provider with the Centers for Advanced Orthopedics Ortho Maryland. The only difference, Zooker explains, is that D.O. considers the body holistically as a unit whereas the M.D. breaks the body down into individual systems and individual organs to diagnose and treat patients.

Today, with the steady stream of patients, many D.O.’s, like Braman, do little manipulations. She may teach a patient a technique to open his sinuses occasionally, but it’s not often like in the past when she used manipulation to open a patient’s ears, she says.

When considering a D.O. or M.D. for care, patients should select the most qualified and referred, and of course make sure the specific physician or practice is part of the in-network provider listing for their insurance carrier. Braman, whose partner is an M.D., finds no difference in insurance coverage for her patients.

“Picking a doctor because he is an M.D. or a D.O. is probably just as silly as picking a doctor from where he went to medical school,” Zooker says. •