MD Vs. DO Vs. ND


As a physician recruiting firm, we talk to “doctors” and “physicians” daily. Many of us may use the term “MD” interchangeably with these terms. However, not all physicians are an MD.

There are actually three different paths a person can take to become a physician. There are differences in both training and philosophy for each of these degrees. In order to make sure you’re hiring the best physician for your facility, it’s important to partner with organizations who understand and utilize these differences.

Physician Recruiting

What Is an MD?

An MD is a medical doctor, also referred to as an allopathic physician. Allopathy is the classic model for training physicians in the United States. Originally, the term allopathy was coined to distinguish traditional medical methods from a new school of thought called homeopathy. Today, allopathy is synonymous with “western medicine” or “modern medicine.”

An MD receives four years of medical school and then must complete their training within a residency program. Medical school usually consists of two years of scientific training and two years of clinical clerkship training.

The majority of medical schools in the United States are allopathic schools and will grant an MD to their students upon completion. In the past, medical school for MDs was tougher to get into. Upon graduation, these students had more success being accepted into a residency program than others. However, the gap between MDs and others has been shrinking recently.

What Is a DO?

A DO is a doctor of osteopathic medicine. A DO today receives the same kind of training as an MD but with more of an emphasis on a holistic or “whole-person” approach.

In addition to the normal training that an MD receives, DOs will receive between 300-500 additional hours of training. This training focuses on a more in-depth understanding of the musculoskeletal system. DOs are trained in osteopathic manipulative treatment, using physical touch to diagnose and treat some disorders.

Osteopathic doctors focus more on primary care than clinical specialties. Philosophically, a DO focuses more on wellness and disease prevention and relies less on the tools of drugs and surgery than a classical MD does.

This doesn’t mean they are less qualified to be a surgeon or a cardiologist, as they do receive the same technical training as MDs. It does mean that a DO will be more likely to choose a specialty like internal medicine or orthopedics as these fields are more in line with the paradigms of osteopathic medicine.

What Is an ND?

While MDs seem to be universally known and DOs are beginning to gain prominence in the profession, the ND is the up-and-coming doctor that few if any have ever heard of.

Right now there are roughly 143 traditional allopathic medical schools in the U.S., 36 osteopathic schools of medicine and only five naturopathic schools of medicine. Naturopathic medicine is defined as a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process.

Naturopathic medicine is a new kind of medicine, focusing on non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical approaches to healing the body. They are trained in the same modern medical procedures as an MD or DO, but are also trained in integrative, traditional, alternative and complementary treatment modalities, which may include orthopedic manipulations, pharmacology, minor surgery, herbal medicines and advanced nutrition principles. NDs are trained in primary medicine during their medical training and are well suited to work in primary care, especially when it comes to chronic disease treatment and prevention.

Physician Hiring

When hiring physicians for your healthcare team, it’s important to consider all schools of medicine and what they can bring to your team. Partnering with a physician recruiting firm that understands all three disciplines, like Adaptive Medical Partners, can help you find the best-suited candidate for your facility.

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