Growth of Osteopathic Medical Profession Addresses Physician Shortage in Rural and Underserved Areas

Twelve states record more than 100 percent growth in osteopathic physicians since 2005

CHICAGO--()--The number of osteopathic physicians practicing in twelve states has more than doubled over the past decade, adding physicians where they are most needed as the profession records a 62 percent growth rate for the same period, according to the newly published 2015 Report on the Osteopathic Medical Profession.

The American Osteopathic Association report documents the longitudinal impact of establishing new osteopathic medical schools in rural and underserved areas, said Adrienne White-Faines, MPH, CEO of the American Osteopathic Association. DOs and MDs are the only two types of fully licensed physicians in the U.S., with DOs comprising 11 percent of physicians.

“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,” White-Faines explained. “These institutions tend to attract local students who remain in the state after graduation, helping to mitigate regional physician shortages and ensure access to high-quality primary and specialty care in rural and underserved areas.”

States that experienced
greater than 50% growth 2015 Active % Change
in the number of DOs DOs
active in practice since

Source: AOA Physician
Masterfile, May 31, 2015.

Virginia     1909     76.4%
South Carolina     777     65.0%
Utah     577     64.4%
Tennessee     1061     64.0%
North Dakota     98     60.7%
Kentucky     881     60.2%
South Dakota     173     54.5%
Wyoming     134     54.0%
Oregon     993     53.7%
North Carolina     1388     52.5%
Minnesota     847     51.8%
Washington     1417     51.4%

The 2015 report also found:

  • One out of four entering medical students attends an osteopathic medical school
  • 53% of DOs are age 45 or younger
  • Women comprised 48% of DOs in active practice for fewer than 10 years
  • 56% of DOs are primary care physicians (defined as family medicine, general medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics)
  • 44% of osteopathic physicians are specialists
  • The top 5 practice specialties are emergency medicine, anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery and psychiatry

Currently, the American Osteopathic Association and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) are transitioning to a single system for training new physicians, known as graduate medical education (GME). At the end of the five-year transition, all new physicians will be eligible to apply for osteopathic and non-osteopathic residencies in every specialty.

Historically, ACGME and AOA maintained separate accreditation systems for residencies and fellowships, although osteopathic physicians could join programs accredited by either organization. Results for the AOA match will be announced in early February.

About the AOA

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 123,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities.

To learn more about DOs and the osteopathic philosophy of medicine, visit


American Osteopathic Association
Lauren Brush, 312-202-8161


American Osteopathic Association
Lauren Brush, 312-202-8161