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Osteopathic medicine is a branch of the medical profession practiced primarily in the United States, but has also spread to 65 other countries, with universities throughout Europe and Asia, and including Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree in the United States is equivalent to the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree and allows medical doctors to practice medicine and surgery in all 50 states. Outside the U.S., a degree in osteopathy is more similar to physical therapy, and exists as an allied health profession.
The practice of osteopathic medicine was founded as osteopathy by frontier physician Andrew Taylor Still as a partial rejection of the prevailing system of medical thought of the 19th century including its frequent use of caustic and/or toxic medicinal substances and dangerous surgeries. The profession maintained ties and gradually moved closer to mainstream medicine in its practices, and came to be called "Osteopathic Medicine". Today, the training of osteopathic physicians is distinct from that of their MD counterparts due to emphasis placed on a view of the patient as a whole person, with four key principles central to the care of all patients:
- The body is a unit of mind, body and spirit.
- The body is capable of self-regulation, self healing, and health maintenance.
- Structure and Function are reciprocally interrelated.
- Rational treatment is based upon these basic principles.
Osteopathic physicians use all conventional methods of diagnosis and treatment but are trained to place additional emphasis on the achievement of normal body mechanics as central to maintaining good health. In the United States, osteopathic medicine is considered by some both a profession and a social movement. Osteopathic physicians educated in the United States should not be confused with non-physician osteopaths, whose training and practice are largely limited to manual therapeutic techniques. The practice has been referred to as the new "jazz of medicine", a term coined by Dr. Wolfgang Gilliar, an osteopathic physician who is currently the Dean of College of Osteopathic Medicine at Touro University Nevada.
Osteopathy in Canada usually refers to the practice of non-physician osteopaths, trained as allied health professionals similar to physical therapists and receiving a degree in osteopathy which specializes in the alignment of the musculoskeletal system.
Osteopathic physicians trained in the U.S. are generally able to obtain a license to practice medicine throughout Canada, though licensure requirements for physicians varies by province. Such physicians are represented by the Canadian Osteopathic Association.
Osteopathic physicians educated in the United States should not be confused with non-physician osteopaths. Osteopathic physicians are educated and trained in the United States and may practice in Canada as fully licensed physicians, as in a number of other countries outside of the United States. There are no colleges of Osteopathic Medicine in Canada. Only those graduates of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine are eligible for licensure to practice osteopathic medicine in Canada. The authority for licensure of American osteopathic graduates lies with the provincial Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons. The Canadian Osteopathic Association has been representing osteopathic physicians in Canada for more than 80 years and has enabled near uniform licensure across Canada for American osteopathic graduates.
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