What is the American Osteopathic Association (AOA)?

American Osteopathic Association - Mark Sikorski, DOThe AOA is a member association representing osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students.  The AOA serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for all osteopathic medical colleges; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities.

The AOA’s mission is to advance the philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine by promoting excellence in education, research, and the delivery of quality, cost-effective health care within a distinct, unified profession.

For more than 150 years the AOA and the osteopathic medical profession have been dedicated to educating and training the future physician workforce.

What is an Osteopathic Physician (DO)?

There are two types of physicians in the United States, osteopathic physicians (DOs) and allopathic physicians (MDs).

DOs and MDs are alike in many ways:

  • Both DOs and MDs are fully qualified physicians licensed to perform surgery and prescribe medication.
  • Both DOs and MDs complete four years of basic medical education.
  • After medical school, both DOs and MDs can choose to practice in a specialty area of medicine — such as surgery, family medicine or psychiatry — after completing a residency program (typically two to six years of additional training).
  • Both DOs and MDs must pass comparable exams to obtain state licenses.
  • DOs and MDs both practice in fully accredited and licensed health care facilities.

Some facts about osteopathic physicians:

  • Between 2000-2–5 there was an average of 66 million annual office and ambulatory visits to DOs.
  • Sixty percent of all DOs practice in the primary care specialties of family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, and pediatrics.
  • DOs represent over 10 percent of the total United States physician population.
  • Osteopathic medical students represent over 10 percent of the total United States medical student population.
  • Many DOs meet a critical need by practicing in rural and medically underserved areas.

AOA Resurces

Learn more about the AOA and ostepathic medicine at www.osteopathic.org.

AOA Definitions

  • Osteopathic Physician (DO) and Osteopathic Medicine are the preferred terminology over osteopath and osteopathy.
  • The terms osteopath and osteopathy refer to non-physician osteopaths or those trained outside the United States.