The osteopathic profession continues to rank among the quickest-growing health care professions in the country and shows no signs of slowing down, with 1 in 4 American medical students choosing an osteopathic medical school in 2018.
In total, the AOA’s 2018 Report on the Osteopathic Medical Profession found more than 114,000 DOs in the U.S. and nearly 31,000 students enrolled in a college of osteopathic medicine, while nearly 22,000 new DOs participated in residency training during the 2017-18 academic year.
Since 1990, the number of DOs in the U.S. has more than tripled, and the profession saw a 54% increase from 2010-2018.
“The growth of our profession is important to the overall health care system, which is feeling the impact of a widening physician shortage, particularly in rural and underserved areas,” said AOA President William S. Mayo, DO.
The osteopathic profession is not only growing but trending younger, according to the report. In 2018, 65 percent of all DOs in active practice were under the age of 45. Of actively practicing female DOs, 74 percent were under 45.
Other key findings from the 2018 report include:
- Women comprise 41 percent of practicing DOs
- 74 percent of all practicing female DOs have entered the profession within the past 14 years
- Nearly 50 percent of DOs practice in seven states: Pennsylvania, California, Florida, New York, Michigan, Texas and Ohio
- The top 5 non-primary care practice specialties are emergency medicine, anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery and psychiatry
A majority of DOs, about 57 percent, trained in primary care specialties, including family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics. A September 2018 editorial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a quarter of family medicine residency positions were filled by DOs, concluding that “graduates of osteopathic schools are disproportionately helping to fill the gap in primary care.”
About 20 percent of DOs also choose to work in medically underserved areas or areas with underserved populations, adding to the overall impact of the osteopathic profession, Dr. Mayo added.
“As an ophthalmologist and Mississippi native who is proud to care for the people of my home state, I can tell you that physicians in all specialties are needed, particularly in our rural communities,” Dr. Mayo said. “The osteopathic medical schools developed during the last decade are strategically located in areas where they can significantly improve the overall health of their communities by attracting local students who remain in the state after graduation.”