Q: I’ve noticed that some doctors have D.O. after their names instead of M.D. What does D.O. stand for? (Asked by a curious patient.)

A: D.O. stands for Doctor of Osteopathy, or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. Let’s start with a little history. The American physician Andrew Taylor Still developed the principles of osteopathic medicine and organized the first osteopathic medical school in Kirkland, Missouri, in 1892. His actions were primarily in response to the primitive conditions and surgical techniques he had observed during the Civil War.

Osteopathy is based on the principle that health depends on the proper relationship between various parts of the body. For example, defects in the musculoskeletal system (the muscles, bones and joints) influence the functions of body organs. These defects may be corrected by therapy or treatment with hands or by medical means.

However, the osteopathic physician may also use other accepted methods, such as drugs, x-rays, surgery or whatever is needed to treat an individual person and in treating the whole patient. True health is believed to depend on complete physical and mental well-being, not just on relieving or eliminating a particular pain or disease.

Most osteopathic physicians enter general practice or some specialty (pediatrics, obstetrics, internal medicine, etc.) D.O.s are licensed to practice medicine in all 50 states and have all the same professional rights and responsibilities as M.D.s.

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): “Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.” — Linus Pauling

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or e-mail jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to curiosity-corner.net.