What does it mean if your doctor is a DO? The new CHS medical director explains

by Dr. Jeanne Rupert, DO

Since arriving at Public Health this spring, to oversee our primary care clinics, many people have asked me about my DO degree.

First Person ImageI knew very little about osteopathic physicians (aka DOs) when I made the decision to pursue a degree in medicine. I knew I wanted to be able to advocate for health among vulnerable populations –and make a difference for those struggling with socioeconomic issues.

I was living in Ohio at the time, and I applied to all of the medical schools in the state, which included six schools offering an MD degree and one offering a doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine (DO). The last place I interviewed was the DO school, at Ohio University.

By early afternoon on my interview day I knew I was “home.” The philosophy of the school emphasized training primary care doctors who could work in underserved areas, a perfect match for my interests. I enjoyed the way the people I met interacted. For example, I asked a student why they all seemed to be smiling in spite of the rigor of the curriculum, and she said, “because this profession is a family, and we look out for each other.”

Osteopaths are hands-on

Dr Jeanne Rupert4Once I started school that fall, I learned about the hands-on evaluation and treatment skills taught in osteopathic schools, and I was delighted to incorporate that into my knowledge of patient care.

Sometimes people ask whether being a DO is like being an MD combined with a chiropractor. I tell them it is more like being a doctor and a physical therapist at the same time, because for osteopathic physicians, the manual aspects are always integrated with the complete spectrum of standard medical care.

Over the years, my patients have been happy to have the option of their doctor giving them a manual treatment for pain and other disorders.

I enjoy working alongside my MD and ARNP colleagues to provide great patient-centered care. Of course, the skill of the provider is not in his or her degree, but in how he or she cares for people.

In recognition of National Osteopathic Medicine Week, I’m appreciative of the training I received at a DO medical school. I have done my best to live up to the wonderful medical tradition I inherited and pass it on by teaching students and residents.

I am excited to be working at Public Health–Seattle & King County, where I can live these values in another way. I see patients one day per week, and I supervise a first-rate team of talented providers with degrees such as MD and ARNP. With a DO school now well-established in Yakima, WA, maybe I’ll be joined by more DO colleagues, too.