Editor's Note: This is a sidebar to the feature "The changing face of physicians," published in the October 2023 100-year anniversary issue of Medical Economics.
The number of licensed physicians with Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degrees continues to grow faster than the number of licensed allopathic doctors. Between 2010 and 2022, the number of licensed D.O. physicians increased by 89% compared with an 18% increase for M.D.s, according to the Federation of State Medical Boards.
The trend matches that identified in last year’s Osteopathic Medical Profession Report by the American Osteopathic Association, which tracked growth from 47,197 D.O. physicians nationwide in 2000 to 141,759 in 2022. As of last year, that amounted to more than 11% of all physicians in the nation.
Ira Monka, D.O., is a family physician in New Jersey and president of the American Osteopathic Association. He believes the osteopathic medicine profession is doing a great job expanding opportunities by increasing the number of osteopathic medical schools. He has noticed that there are fewer questions about the D.O. letters after his name.
“I believe we are being accepted and we have better working relationships with our M.D. colleagues,” Monka said. “We have group practices with both M.D.s and D.O.s. I think the No. 1 reason is the opportunities. With more schools you have more spots at the table.”
Monka said the number of osteopathic schools when he studied was less than 20. Now, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), there are more than 40 colleges of osteopathic medicine in 64 locations across 35 states. And more physicians are emerging from those schools. According to AACOM, more than 7,000 new D.O.s enter the physician workforce each year. Since 2011, student enrollment has surged by 77%.
One of those new osteopathic physicians is Aerial Petty, D.O., a third-year family medicine resident serving as chief resident at NewYork Presbyterian-Columbia University in New York City. She said the tenets of osteopathy really spoke to her when she was considering medical schools.
“I love the philosophy of osteopathic medicine,” Petty said. “We talk about not treating a disease but treating a person. That was just really clear when I was applying to medical schools; it just made so much sense to me. For anyone who is considering a career in medicine, I strongly urge them to consider it.”