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An Allopathic vs Osteopathic Degree: An Augsburg Alum’s Opinion

Many Augsburg graduates go on to pursue medical degrees at a variety of institutions. One consideration that medical students must consider when choosing their program is the choice between an allopathic or osteopathic medical degree (MD vs. DO). According to the American Osteopathic Association, “osteopathic medicine emphasizes the interrelated unity of all systems in the body, each working with the other to heal in times of illness.” Allopathic medicine is more concerned with the direct treatment of symptoms to cure illness and disease. Augsburg alum Anil Gherau ’15 chose the osteopathic path and offers some insight into his decision.

Anil Gherau '15
Anil Gherau ’15

Gherau grew up in Eden Prairie and graduated from Augsburg with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. While he enjoyed his time as an Auggie, specifically doing URGO research with Dr. Bankers-Fulbright and seeing Bill Nye “The Science Guy” on campus, Gherau moved on after graduating to Des Moines, Iowa. He attended medical school at Des Moines University before returning to Minnesota where he is a first-year family medicine resident at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park.

Gherau chose to attend an osteopathic medical school because of his interests in preventative health and the musculoskeletal system. He shadowed an osteopathic family medicine physician before starting medical school, and that experience piqued his interest in the field. Gherau saw the doctor performing osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) on several patients with chronic low back and neck pain. “I was in awe with how well the patients responded to these treatments without the risks commonly attributed to the use of medications or surgeries,” reflects Gherau. While he chose to pursue an osteopathic degree, his experience was very similar to his allopathic colleagues. They all learned the basic sciences, system-based pathology, and pharmacology. However, the key difference was that he took a course called Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM). In that course, Gherau learned the history, concepts, and clinical application of OMM along with a lab portion that allowed students to practice and perfect their OMT skills on peers.

Some medical students fear that DOs are perceived differently than MDs or put at a disadvantage in the residency matching process, but this has not been Gherau’s experience. He has not noticed any difference in the perception of DOs and MDs. The key difference between MDs and DOs is the fact the DOs are taught OMM during medical school. Not all DOs continue to use OMT when they finish medical school. Also, there are many MDs who pursue additional training in OMM after medical school. This really varies by each individual physician and their interests. And while Gherau cannot speak to the experience of DOs in more competitive specialties, his preparation for residency was not affected by his degree.

Gherau’s future plans are ambitious and shaped by his osteopathic approach. He hopes to establish a community-based practice in an urban or suburban setting, working with patients of all ages, gender identities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses. He has special interests in community health, immigrant health, and adolescent health and plans to use his OMT skills on patients with musculoskeletal and lymphatic concerns.