MD vs DO Programs – Which Is Better?

June 9

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Feeling confused and overwhelmed by the decision between pursuing an MD or DO degree? We get it. Choosing the right path can be challenging with so much information, and there are often stigmas and misconceptions surrounding each… 

But worry not! Because we've got just the video to help you navigate this crucial decision.

Introducing Kartik Goswami, a second-year medical student and admissions coach at MedLife Mastery. In this video, Kartik unravels the mysteries surrounding MD vs DO programs, providing you with valuable insights to guide your decision-making process.

Be sure to watch the video so that you get key advice to help you make the tough decisions you'll encounter when pursuing medicine. We'll hand it off to Kartik from here!

Med students often get flustered between DO and MD programs. They'll know where to apply to, and what the differences are. Sometimes there's stigma around one or the other. Sometimes people apply to both. But I'm here to tell you today what the different philosophies, what their differences are, so you know what to do and where to apply to.

Hi, I'm Kartik Goswami, a second-year medical student working with MedLife Mastery, and I'm here to explain to you what the difference between a DO is and an MD school.

The History of MD and DO Programs

So MD school started in 1766 in New Jersey. So that was when the first professional degree for your medical degree, MD, was started. And since the 1800s, it's become a professional degree that people go to become certified to practice medicine.

DO schools, on the other hand, started in 1874 with Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, who was an MD himself. So Dr. Still developed a whole body approach where the whole body was palpated, checked for problems, because his thought was that every system is connected to each other. And if one is diseased, it's going to affect all the rest. He started that school in 1892, officially a DO school. Instead of Medical Degree, it was called Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

MD Applications vs DO Applications

During my application process, I had applied both to DO schools and MD schools. I got to see both application processes and what their differences and similarities are.

The basics are that the 152 MD schools that are accredited are done by AMCAS. Now, this is where the AMCAS service provided by the AAMC is where you log on, make your account, fill in the whole form. There's a big form - it took me a couple of days. Especially putting out your grades for every single class you've taken. That's probably the worst. Writing the essays was not as bad.

Now, DO schools have a similar thing where they have AACOMAS. It's a similar thing where you fill in your grades, your information, do a couple of basic essays, and then you can apply it to those 35 accredited DO schools.

So AMCAS for MD schools, the application process usually opens on June 1st and continues until January of the next year. So for example, for the year of 2023, it would open around June first and end in January 1st of 2024.

Now, on the other hand, DO schools open again in June, but they would stay open until April of the following year.

So there's a couple more months of leeway for DO schools. But my personal tip and a tip from all applicants who have applied before me, the earlier you apply, the higher the chance you have of getting in. So I would recommend you guys should apply in June. Have your application ready, have the basic essays ready.

You can find the basic essays for AACOMAS and AMCAS on Google. You can have them written out, previewed by your professors, edited out, perfectly done, ready to go. And then all you have to do is send the application in to the schools you want to apply to.

Cost of MD vs DO Programs

Now, I will say both the AACOMAS and AMCAS do take a fee for processing.

So the fee for AAMCAS is $198 for their general application, plus $55 per school that you're going to apply to. So if you're applying to five different DO schools, you'll be paying $198, plus 50 times 5, that's $275. That's a total of $473 For the most updated costs and fees, consult the AACOMAS website directly here!

For AMCAS, they also have a fee. Their flat fee is $ 175 for the general application, plus $45 per additional school. So again, another five schools would be $225 on top of that to a total of $400. For the most updated costs and fees, consult the AMCAS website directly here.

If you have circumstances that allow you not to pay for the application processes, this is something you should consider.

Please go to the AAMC and AAMCAS websites, and see if you can get your fees waived.

Personality Exams

Now, both these application processes require CASPer or AAMC Vita or other types of tests like this. These tests are done to test your personality and get a glimpse of how you are and what type of physician you'd be. These tests aren't anywhere near as hard as the MCAT, and they should be done pretty fairly simply with a couple of days worth of prep. So no need to worry about them, but just make sure that the schools you're applying to, they work, whether they require them or they don't, which ones they require, make sure that's all done.

The Importance of Job Shadowing For MD & DO Programs

On top of this, both DO and MD schools are starting to require a lot of shadowing. Not really a requirement, but it's a very heavily implied extra-curricular that they want - especially DO schools. It's literally in their application and it says, Have you shadowed a DO physician before? So this is something you should consider. If you haven't already shadowed with the upcoming application process in June, you have plenty of time, email out some physicians and go to see if you can shadow a DO or an MD.

And if you cannot find someone to shadow in person, there are a lot of virtual shadowing programs that have been going on since COVID, and that is something you can do to hopefully find some physician that you can shadow and write on a CV that you've shadowed someone.

So now on top of this, MD and DO schools look at your extracurriculars a lot. So if you have health care related extracurriculars and other related extracurriculars, just in general, please be sure to put this on the application. This is weighted pretty heavily after your grades and test scores and statements to see what you've done, what you're interested in, and what type of person you'll be as a Physician. So it's a good way of then seeing how you're going to end up being.

How Competitive Are MD vs DO Programs?

So now we're going to get into the nitty gritty stuff. I know you guys have all been waiting for what test scores are for DOs schools, what test scores are for MDs schools. So I have the latest update on the stats. They do vary from website to website, but after researching a little bit, there are some exact numbers that I can give you.

So the average MCAT score of an MD applicant is a 511.5, while an average MCAT score for a DO school is a 503.83. That is very exact, but these are averages of all applicants, so take that as you will. These averages do not guarantee whether you'll get in or not. There's obviously a big variance here. These are just the means, which is the same idea behind what the GPA is all about.

DO school GPA is a 3.56, while an MD GPA is 3.73. From this, obviously you can tell MD schools are slightly harder to get in by test scores and grades. But that doesn't mean the quality of education is less. DO schools and MD schools are notoriously very similar in what they teach.

The Differences In Practising Medicine: MD vs DO

If a DO physician decides to do Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, also known as OMM, then it'll be a slight difference. DO schools do a whole body approach, and they take in account the mind, the body, the spirit, everything in between. That is the whole philosophy and how they practice. That's what they are going for. That's what they want to treat and they want to make sure that everything of the patient is cured and ready so the patient is not coming with a similar problem, the same problem, or any problem again.

That's their whole philosophy!

While MDs are more focused on specific symptoms and treating those symptoms and focusing on traditional medicine treatments. DO schools are focused on alternative medicine and other complementary treatments on top of the traditional medicine.

There's a stigma to that DO physicians don't do real medicine, they do fake medicine, but they do this alternative medicine on top of traditional medicine.

There are similarities, but DO physicians go on top of that to do other differences as well. Taking into more of a holistic way of treatment, not just for the whole body, but just in terms of what you're available to treat with.

Extra Requirements For DO Students?

DO physicians use a more wide variety of treatment methods compared to MD physicians. DO students also have to take the COMLEX. COMLEX is like step one - it's very similar to STEP 1, actually. And in the future, it's being talked about being step one in COMLEX, even being the same exam for all medical students. But as of right now, DO students have to take the COMLEX.

And if DO students want to apply to certain specialties such as surgery or any other dermatology and other specialties like that, they will also have to take STEP 1 for requiring residency places.

This isn't always mandatory. Students can just take COMLEX and get into residency. But vast majority of residency programs take STEP 1. So it is well advised for DO students to keep the options open to take both COMLEX and STEP 1. Since COMLEX is mandatory to gain the DO degree and step one will help give you those chances and every residency spot you're going to dream of.

So I know we talked about how complex and step one opens doors for almost everything like that. But there are some programs that limit only to MD schools, such as feeder schools. Let's take a big university and they have their own residency program. They might only take MD students and not DO students. So this might hinder DO students' abilities to get into the residency programs that they wanted to.

So be aware if you're going to DO schools and are thinking about it, sometimes your options for future residencies are more of a hassle. But if you're trying to look for primary care, internal medicine, pediatrics, or on a generic spectrum, with DO schools, you will have no problem whatsoever getting into any of those programs.

Now, if you're looking at more surgical specialties and stuff like that, even after taking step one, you might have a little bit of trouble getting into residency, but it's not that much of a difference.

Sure, like 90 % of the MDs will match into their required specialty, while a tad bit less, lower percentage of DO will match in. But all in all, you should be able to match into what you want as long as you do well on these tests. And now with these tests being pass/fail, you should be fine.

Just do well on your STEP 2's and your other COMLEX test and make sure you can get through. Do your best and you'll get placed where you're best fitted.

What Type of Physician Do You Want To Be?

Ultimately, a DO versus MD: It's a choice up to you. What you prefer, what you want out of your medical education, what you want to do with your medical education, what type of physician you want to be. It's all up to you!

And that's your choice on what you want to become. And school is going to really shape how you become that person. If you can apply to both DO and MD, keep your options open, see what type of schools you get into, and then you can decide where to go. If you can't, hopefully this video has helped you decide or helped you learn more about both DO and MD schools.

And hopefully you can make a decision on where you want to put your hard earned money to, where you want to put your time and sacrifice towards, and what type of school you want.

If you have any questions, you can always talk to a MedLife Mastery mentor! MedLife Mastery is offering lots of new content and lots of new programs. Please take care of yourself and good luck on your application! 

Getting Closer To Applying To Med-School

We know that as you get closer and closer to actually applying to medical schools, doubts and uncertainties can creep in. But we’ve got your back! We believe in your potential and are here to support you every step of the way. 

At MedLife Mastery, we offer affordable one-on-one med-school admissions coaching services that can help you develop and submit high-quality applications, increasing your chances of acceptance into medical schools.

If you'd like to learn more about how our coaching services can benefit you, head over to our med-school admissions coaching page. We're excited to assist you on your journey.

Remember, the road to becoming a physician may have its twists and turns, but with determination, perseverance, and the right guidance, you can conquer it all.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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