Two types of medical schools and medical degrees are available:
Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree: A doctor of medicine attends a four-year medical school and learns allopathic or traditional medical theory and practice. In traditional medical practice, diseases and health are evaluated and treated based primarily on symptoms or attributes associated specifically with the health condition.
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) Degree: A doctor of osteopathy attends a four-year osteopathic school and learns holistic medicine as well as traditional medicine. The focus of holistic medicine is evaluating illnesses and health in the context of the “whole patient.
The curricula of both schools are nearly identical. State licensing agencies and most hospitals and residency programs recognize the degrees as equivalent. In other words, osteopathic doctors are legally and professionally equivalent to medical doctors.
In order to become a physician, each student must complete four years of undergraduate training, four years of medical school, and additional years of internship and residency. During the period of internship, they work with patients under the supervision of physicians in many areas including internal medicine, psychiatry, gynecology, and surgery. Many MDs receive graduate medical education in a particular specialty through a paid residency that they complete in a hospital. Many DOs participate in a 12-month internship and a residency that may extend into six years.
To be licensed in the United States, physicians must graduate from an accredited medical school, pass a rigorous examination, and receive one to seven years of graduate education, depending upon their specialty.
In order to receive board certification by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or American Osteopathic Association (AOA), the physician must pass another examination within two years of practice. Some doctors become Fellows of the American College of Surgeons (FACS), meaning that the doctor’s education, training, competence, and ethical conduct has passed an intensive assessment consistent with the standards of the College of Surgeons. The doctor may also complete more training in a subspecialty.