January 13, 2010
435 N. Michigan Ave. Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60611
As President-elect of the Chicago-based American Osteopathic Association, which represents more than 2,600 osteopathic physicians (DOs) in Illinois and more than 67,000 DOs nationwide, I read the 2010 “Top Doctors” issue with great interest. I was pleased to see that DOs were included in the listing of the top 347 doctors in the Chicago area. However, I am concerned that, once again, Chicago used the term “MD” as a synonym for all physicians in not only the introduction to the “Top Doctors” list, but also on the magazine’s cover.
As you may know, there are two groups of fully licensed physicians in the U.S.—MDs and DOs. Both groups attend four years of medical school, complete residency training and can practice in any of the medical specialties highlighted in the “Top Doctors” issue.
While there are many similarities between MDs and DOs, there are also notable differences. Osteopathic medical schools, such as the Midwestern University/Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in Downers Grove, where I proudly serve as dean, emphasize prevention and a “whole person” approach to health care, instead of just treating specific symptoms and illnesses. DOs also receive extra training in the musculoskeletal system, which provides them with a better understanding of the ways that an illness or injury in one part of the body can affect another. In addition, osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is incorporated into the training and practice of osteopathic physicians, thus allowing DOs to use their hands to diagnose illness and injury and encourage healing.
Although DOs and MDs practice side by side in major medical centers, hospitals and doctors’ offices, osteopathic physicians provide a distinct form of health care. By referring to every physician in your magazine as an MD, you are inaccurately labeling the DOs as well as misleading your readers to believe that MDs are the only option when choosing a physician.
If the true purpose of the “Top Doctors” issue is to provide your readers with an informative guide for making decisions about who is going to provide their medical care, I strongly encourage you to identify each physician as either a DO or an MD in future listings, and I ask that you please refrain from using MD as synonym for all physicians.
Karen J. Nichols, DO
American Osteopathic Association