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Osteopathic medicine is a branch of the medical profession practiced primarily in the United States, but has also spread into other countries, notably Canada. Osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) are equivalent to Doctors of Medicine (M.D.s) and are considered fully licensed physicians (medical doctors) to practice medicine and surgery in all 50 states and are recognized in 65 other countries, including all Canadian provinces.
The practice of osteopathic medicine was originally 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.
Osteopathic physicians in Canada are first educated in the United States. Such physicians are represented by the Canadian Osteopathic Association. Though licensure requirements for physicians varies by province in Canada, osteopathic physicians are generally able to obtain a license to practice medicine across the country.
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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- Zuger A. Scorned No More, Osteopathy Is on the Rise. New York Times. 17 Feb 1998.
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- Canadian Osteopathic Practice (.doc)
- Ontario Medicine Act – Restricted Titles, Section 9
- Ontario College of Physicians Doctor of Osteopathy Registration Policy Statement 
- British Columbia Medical Practitioners Act Section 40 Registration of Osteopaths 
- Alberta Medical Profession Act Sections 3 and 18
- Albert Health Professions Act Schedule 21 Use of Titles
- Canadian Osteopathic Association