By Rebecca Lewis, DO

There has recently been some scrutiny over the qualifications of the presidential physician because he is a DO. Many in the media have not done their homework and are erroneously reporting the qualifications of DOs, which is making the water even murkier.

I’ll preface to say that this is not a political post, and I am not inviting any political debate. Regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on, DOs are there to take care of you. I am writing this post to clear up some of the misconceptions because I am a #ProudDO.

What is a DO?

A DO is a fully licensed physician who is qualified to practice in all settings in which our MD counterparts are licensed to practice. All 50 states recognize the license and medical training of DOs.

A DO is required to complete four years of medical school, complete three or more years of residency with or without fellowship—depending on the specialty (in the same residency and fellowship programs that the MDs are also completing)—and pass national board certifications that are equivalent to the MD boards, if not the same board exam (depending on the specialty).

DOs can be found in all specialties (e.g., family medicine, dermatology, surgery, infectious disease, etc.). DOs are licensed and trained to evaluate and treat patients, prescribe medications, perform surgeries, delivery babies—you name it!

Understanding the Difference

The difference between a DO and an MD is that our training does have an emphasis in evaluating and treating the whole patient, hence the holistic approach terminology that the media is reporting (not that many MDs do not do this), and that we are trained in osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT). You can find more information on this on the American Osteopathic Association website.

DOs are highly qualified physicians and have the training and the expertise to treat all patients, including the president of the United States. Osteopathic physicians have held leadership roles in many other organizations and hospitals.

I bet you didn’t know, but Lt. Gen. Ronald Ray Blanck, DO, was the 39th Surgeon General of the United States Army, from 1996 to 2000. ACOFP member TeCora Ballom, DO, MPH, MSHI, currently serves as U.S. assistant surgeon general, appointed in 2017. If that doesn’t show degree of qualification, I don’t know what would.


I am a proud DO physician! I chose to go to an osteopathic school because of the tenets of osteopathy and the additional skills that I could provide my patients with OMT. As an osteopathic family physician, I will continue to serve my patients with the highest quality of care that I can without hesitation. I will continue to serve alongside both DO and MD physicians in all specialties and know that they will be providing excellent patient care because that’s just what we do!

If you have patients or acquaintances with additional questions on DOs, I would be happy to answer or point you in the direction of someone who would know that answer. ACOFP staff and the Board of Governors would also be happy to help clarify and answer questions.

Also, see the recent blog post by ACOFP President-Elect Nicole Heath Bixler, DO, MBA, FACOFP, titled Changing the Dialogue on the DO Profession—further defining the qualifications and responsibilities of DOs. Please feel free to share this information.

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