Prospective Doctor (from MedSchoolCoach): The Role of the DO with AACOM President & CEO Dr. Robert Cain (2024)

Nov 5, 2020

Dr. Cain, president & CEO of the American Association ofColleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), discusses osteopathicmedicine, including MD vs DO.

  • [01:37] Osteopathy’s Visibility in Current Events
  • [05:53] Differences Between Osteopathy and Allopathy
  • [09:02] Cooperation Between DO and MD Doctors
  • [09:50] The AACOM’s Role in Osteopathic Education
  • [11:35] Statistic of DO Doctors
  • [12:14] Why Ragav Chose Osteopathic Medicine
  • [13:52] Application of DO’s Biomechanics Training
  • [17:12] DO and MD Program Merger and How it Will Affect MedicalStudents
  • [19:59] Advice to DO Students Applying for Residency
  • [21:29] AACOM’s Position about the COMLEX
  • [24:25] Study Tips for the UMLE and COMLEX
  • [25:37] Future of Osteopathic Medicine
  • [27:28] How to Get Exposure to Osteopathic Medicine

On one hand, both presidential candidates have a DO as theirprimary physician – President Trump with Dr. Sean Conley DO, andVice President Biden with Dr. Kevin O’Connor DO. Yet on the otherhand, a prominent physician clothing company, FIGS, is accused ofpublishing disparaging advertisem*nts towards DOs and femalephysicians – which caused quite an uproar on social media. Add tothis that medical television shows, like Grey’s Anatomy, alwaysrefer to doctors with an “MD” and not a “DO.”

So why does there seem to be this tug of war between the two?What is the difference between a DO and an MD? Is one practicebetter? We get to the bottom of this with the president of AmericanAssociation of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), theorganization that supports the 37 accredited colleges ofosteopathic medicine in the United States.

Dr. Sahil Mehta chats with Dr. Robert Cain, a pulmonologyspecialist. He was also the former dean of clinical education atOhio University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Currently, heserves as the president and CEO of the American Association ofColleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM). Also joining in today’sepisode is Ragav Sharma, a 4th year osteopathic student andMedSchoolCoach. He hosts The Preventive MedicinePodcast.

Differences Between Osteopathic and AllopathicMedicine

There is no practical difference between osteopathic doctors(DOs) and allopathic doctors (MDs) they are both licensed topractice medicine in the United States. MD and DO students take upthe same subjects, with the exception of biomechanics, which isemphasized more in DO education. In addition, osteopathic medicineemphasizes training students to become physician-servants, andorientation that influences the practice of medicine. Medicalstudents should consider what type of physician they’d like to bebefore deciding on an MD or DO degree.

Dr. Cain likes to think of MD and DO doctors as complementary toone another. With the US’s complex healthcare system, cooperationbetween MD and DO doctors is crucial to improving the lives of morepatients. When it comes down to it, both types of doctors areworking towards the same goal of progressing healthcare.

Why Osteopathy?

Osteopathy was introduced to Ragav, a fourth year med student,by his father, who knew that his son had an interest inmuscoloskeletal medicine. Ragav proceeded to apply to both DO andMD medical schools. Eventually, he chose to go to MidwesternUniversity Chicago to pursue Osteopathic Medicine. He believes theholistic philosophy and the manual medicine training from a DOeducation will supplement his skillset as a future practitioner ofmusculoskeletal medicine.

Application of DO’s Biomechanic Training

To this day, Dr. Cain still applies his DO training in the fieldof pulmonology. Not many people may know this, but the respiratorysystem is biomechanical. He cites exacerbated chronic obstructivepulmonary disease (COPD) as an example. Patients with thiscondition have an increased work of breathing. As a DO physician,Dr. Cain prescribes medicine to relieve symptoms but he also checksfor changes in the chest wall, since removing any obstructions willdecrease the likelihood of respiratory failure.

Ragav also mentions an instance where he was able to apply ofhis osteopathy knowledge. He encountered a stroke patient who couldnot breathe well during his in-patient rehab rotation. He suspectedthat the patient’s lung muscles have not fully recovered from thestroke, which made breathing more difficult. As a result of hissuggestion, treatment changes were made to include more respiratorytherapy and to shift bed positioning. Ragav’s osteopathic trainingled him to make a suggestion which ultimately made a difference inthe patient’s outcome.

Advice to DO Students Applying forResidency

Ragav’s advice to fellow students is to focus on things you cancontrol such as board scores, clinical rotation performance, andcapacity for learning. As long as you put in your best efforts youare setting yourself up to succeed. Keep working hard towards thechosen field you have in mind. It’s also helpful to be aware ofspecializations that have a preference for DO over MD students andvice versa.

Study Tips for the USMLE and COMLEX

The content in both licensure exams are similar, but thequestions are posed differently. To save on time, you may study forthe USMLE and the COMLEX with the same resources. The maindifference between the two is that the COMLEX also coversosteopathic medicine. DO students should use osteopathy’s holisticphilosophy as a lens when answering questions on the test. Foradditional preparation, look for reviewer questions that mimic theCOMLEX’s questions.

Future of Osteopathic Medicine

With the merger of the MD and DO education programs, AACOM hopesto ease the matching system for students and their chosenresidencies, and simplify the licensure exams for DO students. Itis also the AACOM’s goal to eliminate the need for DO students takethe USMLE because a specialization requires them to do so. Anotherchallenge that DO students face are the restrictive regulations forshadowing experiences. The AACOM recognizes this, and is alreadylooking for alternative ways to increase exposure toosteopathy.

Recent developments and events have increased the visibility ofosteopathic medicine more than ever. This is an opportunity tosolidify osteopathy in US healthcare system. Dr. Cain hopes to seeincreased interest and acceptance of osteopathic medicine throughongoing education and awareness efforts of the AACOM.

Learn more about the osteopathic profession on the Prospective Doctorwebsite. Also, visit AACOM’swebsite for a list of schools offering a DO program.

Prospective Doctor (from MedSchoolCoach): The Role of the DO with AACOM President & CEO Dr. Robert Cain (2024)


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