Osteopathic schools offering MD degrees, is the recession to blame?

An osteopathic school in Texas is considering adding allopathic MD degrees. (via GruntDoc)

Apparently, the economy is cited as the president of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine says, “the most optimal way to support our mission of developing outstanding primary care physicians for the state of Texas while maintaining financial stability in difficult times.”

Is there are shortage of students applying for DO degrees? Is the primary care environment is so toxic, that most students are opting for more specialist-friendly MD degrees?

Or is this a stealth way for an osteopathic institution to throw in the towel and convert to a more traditional medical school?

A curious decision indeed.

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  • Anonymous

    Throw in the towel? “…more traditional medical school”? Sounds like you need to do some more research.

  • Cy

    There’s no shortage of DO applicants, at TCOM or anywhere else. The number of DO school seats is increasing by a few hundred per year. 60% of DO applicants get rejected, just like on the MD side. Furthermore, TCOM is by FAR the cheapest DO school, has a decent research reputation (for a DO school), and gets just as many out-of-state applicants as the other TX schools.

    There’s a precedent of sorts: Michigan State has DO and MD schools on the same campus, sharing some resources.

    I don’t understand the financial argument at all. Is there a funding source that TCOM’s president is alluding to? On SDN, folks are talking about this being a residency issue, but that makes no sense either: all the primary care residencies are “open” to DOs already. How is TCOM saving money by hiring MD faculty, staffing for additional clinical rotations, and prepping for LCME accreditation?

    What I’d like to believe is that TCOM has the cajones to admit that maintaining osteopathic medicine as a separate-but-equal system is pointless. You think there’s old-white-guy-dick-waving in the AMA? Check out the AOA.

  • Anonymous

    It wouldn't be the first time this happened. MSU has both MD and DO programs.

    I think the article was implying that the school is hurting financially, not their graduates. An extra couple hundred MD students could really help boost their $$$. Why not train more DO students? I don't know…appeal to a different market base…

    Different DO schools attract different applicants. I am a student at LECOM-Bradenton, and many students here go on to specialize.

    However, I would imagine that TCOM appeals to a more traditional osteopathic applicant, and thus many of their students WANT to go into primary care. I think they are simply looking for ways to broaden their market (i.e. make more money)

    Osteopathic medicine has changed drastically over the last couple of decades (at least among those who want to allow it to change) and is no longer just for primary care. As a first semester student at LECOM-B, I can run circles around my MD friends in basic sciences. While I have covered (and been tested, board style) on over 80 chapters in phys, pharm, path, biochem, genetics, etc…they are still finishing anatomy. We did that back in July-October, and continually return to the topic in PBL.

    Historically, our board scores since the school opened have made us the #2 DO school in the country. Our first class match list had tons of people specializing: lots of anesthesia, radiology, ENT, ophtho, derm, lots of IM (who plan to go on to fellowships), lots of people in surgery who plan to go on to fellowships.

    I just wish people would stop pigeon-holing DO schools as "just primary care". I wound up at LECOM because I am 30, have a family, did not have a strong science background so mediocre mcat (which if I retook it now, I'd probably get a flipping 40…ugh), rent is cheaper here than in the metro areas where most DO schools are, it's 75 degrees on Dec. 12th, and I believe in the curriculum.

    None of my reasons for going here were because I want "primary care" or to "learn to use my hands". Yes, we learn OMM, but it's up to us how much we plan to really use it. I think it's been useful so far for some treatments, and if were going into sports medicine, PM&R, or FP I would probably use it more.

    Ok. Off to a final. Peace!

  • Anonymous

    The “M.D.”s far superior in picking up Chicks, and “D.O.” always reminds me of Homer Simpsons catch phrase. Never even heard of them until I went in the Military, thought the guy across the hall from me was a “Doctor of Optometry”. Always wondered why he had to do Pelvics all the time…

  • Brent Passey

    I find it interesting that people always seem to imply that DOs can’t specialize. I decided to apply only to osteopathic schools after I working with a cardiologist that was a DO. Granted many students choose to go into primary care, but that could just be because many people who enter osteopathic schools do it with the desire to focus on primary care.

    Also, if you do your research you’ll find that there is no shortage of DO applicants. In fact every year the number of osteopathic applicants increases significantly. Claiming that the reason they are offering an MD degree for financial reasons seems odd, if anything it would cost them more to start a new program than it would to just add more DO seats, or they could just raise tuition (not that I support that last idea).

  • 7 years

    there is definitely no shortage of students applying to medical school period. DO or MD. My DO school gets about 4000 applications for 120 spots. I think they accept about 450?

    I really can’t speculate why this texas school is doing this. I think there are some who feel D.O.s and M.D.s have become so similar in practice that there is little difference in schooling these medical students aside from the additional manipulation and biomechanic education the D.O.s get.

    While I agree that we end up doing very similar jobs, I personally really do enjoy my D.O. education and feel I am getting some extra helpful hands on techniques. I think the healthcare system often dictates whether we have the time to actually use them…

    I also pay the price for these extra skills with higher tuition (private), a longer school year, frequent questions of “are you really a doctor”,having to take two sets of boards (COMLEX and USMLE), and some discrimination from dinosaur M.D.s that still don’t get it.

    I think a school offering both degrees might be a good way to go. They could do all the core science and didactics for the D.O.s and M.D.s in the same classrooms and then add on a component for the D.O.s covering osteopathic philosophy and manipulation.


  • Anonymous

    re:”a longer school year” “I can run circles around my MD friends in basic sciences”

    Maybe I am missing something but the only break in allopathic med schools is the 7-8 weeks between first and second year which is often filled with med school related volunteer rotations. Personally I think DO’s are well set up for residency, but to think DO students can run circles around MD students is as arrogant (and misinformed) as the visa versa.

  • 7 years

    I agree anon. It is more the student than the school. I do not think is common for anyone degree to run circles around the other…
    it really is the individual student. Plus, most of the training comes in residency anyhow…

    As far as the school year length, I was stating that from my personal experience as my school year is longer and we have longer school days that either of my MD friends. That is why I started my sentence with…”I also pay the price for these extra skills with higher tuition (private), a longer school year”.


  • Anonymous

    If they want to go to a class size of 250, why not just expand their current class?

    Personally, I don’t feel the separate systems is a pointless exercise. The longer I do this, the more I see the organizations get more and more arrogant……the more I appreciate that there is a parallel organization.

    You don’t like JCAHO? Join the club. But your hospital, ANY hospital, including Dr. Pho’s, including my own, could dump JCAHO in a second and get accredited by the American Osteopathic Association, it would make no difference with insurances, etc. It amazes me more people do not recognize this.

  • EJ

    Enough speculation… All questions answered:


    This should be the go-to source for all news DO/MD at UNTHSC.

    I’ll be watching patiently.

    P.S. Both GruntDoc and KevinMD got nods on their “In The News” page…I’d much rather read these anyway :)

  • Anonymous

    This is not news. Two other state-sponsored universities house both MD and DO schools: Michigan State and UDMNJ (New Jersey).

  • Jiggler

    having both DO and MD programs is so pointless. nowadays the curricula are nearly identical and each focuses on medicine that works, not necessarily some unique philosphy

  • BIll

    Why would you ever get a DO if you could get an MD? DOs should be kept from specializing since they’re needed in dying primary care field.

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