International Practice Rights

DOs receive international recognition as fully licensed physicians

Recognition from the UN’s International Labor Organization should help osteopathic physicians gain practice rights throughout the world.

Plan to practice overseas? International recognition of osteopathic physicians just took a significant step forward.

The International Labor Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, has issued a letter affirming that U.S.-trained osteopathic physicians are fully licensed physicians who prescribe medication and perform surgery. The acknowledgment draws a clear separation between American DOs and osteopaths. Within the international standards that classify jobs to promote international comparability across occupations, U.S.-trained DOs are now categorized with all other physicians as medical doctors.

This recognition is expected to make it easier for DOs to gain practice rights in different countries, and will assist the AOA in executing its strategic priority to expand the international impact of osteopathic medicine.

AOA staff accompanied AOA President Mark Baker, DO, to Geneva, Switzerland, last month to educate international health leaders about the distinctions between U.S.-trained DOs and non-physician osteopaths during the World Health Assembly. The ILO’s letter is a result of their efforts.


  1. Amy Byerwalter, AOA Associate Vice President of International Relations

    Hi Travis –

    Thanks for your question. You are correct that DOs are eligible for practice rights in the UK. This is a normally three-step process for an individual:

    1. Applicant’s qualifications are individually assessed via the Medical School Qualifications Review form (MSQR).

    2. If applicant’s qualifications are approved, they may then apply to sit the required Professional and Linguistics Assessments Board test (PLAB). The PLAB is the equivalent of the USMLE or COMLEX in the U.S.

    3. Once the applicant passes the PLAB, they can then apply for registration to the General Medical Council (GMC).

    The first–and quite onerous–step is what we’re working toward eliminating for DOs. If you were to apply as an individual you would need to complete the MSQR yourself–this is a lengthy document that takes time, effort and resources to complete. We negotiated with the GMC for over a year until they agreed to review an MSQR for each COM. Since then we have been working with COMs to complete and submit their MSQR to the GMC. This must be done in a staggered fashion, and we hope to have all COMS included on their register of approved schools over the course of next 12 months.

    In a nutshell, what this means is that if you apply for licensure in the UK and your COM is on the GMC’s register of approved medical schools, you skip the first step entirely. It eases the process for you. And by having our COMs on the GMC’s register, it lends additional credibility in front of other regulatory authorities as we continue our efforts to expand recognition of the DO degree outside the U.S.

    The above article has been updated to provide clarification on this point.

  2. Mark DeSantis, DO

    I would like to thank Dr. Mark Baker and staff for his hard work and this recognition. It is a huge accomplishment that is long overdue.

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