Be Ready to Explain Why You Want to Be an Osteopathic Physician

As an osteopathic (DO) medical school applicant, you find yourself faced with some form of the question “Why do you want to be an osteopathic physician?” many times during the medical school application process.

Although DO schools have a lot in common with allopathic (MD) schools, they’re also proud of their unique history, traditions, and principles, and they seek students who are genuinely interested in attending an osteopathic medical school. Making the case to DO schools that the osteopathic medical profession is a great fit for you will make you a stronger candidate for admission.

Questions about your interest in osteopathic medicine are popular ones on school-specific secondary (supplemental) applications and during interviews. Although you may have discussed your interest in osteopathic medicine on the personal statement on your American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) primary application, that space is also a place to discuss topics such as your interest in medicine in general and elements of your background that you want to highlight.

Specific questions on secondaries and during interviews allow you to go more deeply into your reasons for applying to DO schools than you did on the primary application.

The first step to crafting a strong response about your interest in osteopathic medicine is understanding the background of the DO profession. If you haven’t already researched the history and development of osteopathic medicine, spend some time reading up on it. A good starting place is What Is Osteopathic Medicine? page at the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) site.

If you want to dig more deeply into the history and philosophy of osteopathic medicine, the book The DOs: Osteopathic Medicine in America by Norman Gevitz (The Johns Hopkins University Press) is a good resource. With a firm understanding of how the osteopathic profession evolved in the United States, you’ll be much better equipped to explain why want to be a member of it.

Although understanding the background and philosophy of the DO profession is essential to creating strong responses, the foundation of your answers should be built around your interests and goals as well as your experiences with osteopathic medicine:

  • For example, if you envision practicing medicine in an underserved area, discuss how you believe that an osteopathic medical education will prepare you to work with this patient population. If you have an affinity for preventive medicine, talk about your desire to incorporate nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle changes into your work with patients and how the osteopathic philosophy fits ideally with that approach.

  • Make sure that you also include your experiences with osteopathic physicians and how they’ve influenced your decision to apply to osteopathic medical schools. You may have seen osteopathic physicians demonstrating some of the approaches, such as holistic care and the use of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), that attract you to osteopathic medicine. Discussing those methods on your applications and/or with your interviewer make it clear that your interest in osteopathic medicine is based on careful exploration of the profession.

Don’t denigrate allopathic medicine in the process of discussing why you’re interested in osteopathic medicine. Demeaning MDs won’t win you points with DOs; instead, it will make you look unprofessional. Stick with talking about what you like about osteopathic medicine. With that approach, you can’t go wrong!

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