Six Degrees of Qualification

posted by Emily Spilko
filed under general postings

Can't decipher those letters that follow your doctor's name? If you can't tell a D.O. from an O.D., refer to this quick checkup on credentials. 


D.C.: doctor of chiropractic

Translation: Unlike an orthopedist, who is an M.D. and prescribes drugs or surgery for back pain, a chiropractor physically manipulates a patient's spine for therapy.

Training: After a requisite number of undergraduate class hours, three years and four months of chiropractic study are necessary. An orthopedist, on the other hand, after four years of undergraduate study, must complete four years of medical school and five years of a residency program before receiving a degree.


D.D.S./D.M.D.: doctor of dental surgery/doctor of dental medicine

Translation: Both are dentists who perform checkups, cleanings, fillings, and other tooth-related tasks.

Training: Following undergraduate study, a dentist must complete four years of graduate schooling in a dental program before being awarded a D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree. To be an oral surgeon, both must go on to complete a minimum of 48 months of study in an advanced oral and maxillofacial program.


D.O.: doctor of osteopathy

Translation: A doctor of osteopathic medicine who acts as a general practitioner

Training: A D.O. and an M.D. are the only two medical degrees recognized by the American Medical Association. The only difference between the two is philosophical: M.D.s take an allopathic—that is, conventional—approach; D.O.s take an osteopathic, or holistic, approach to medicine.


D.P./D.Pharm: doctor of pharmacy


Translation: A licensed pharmacist who typically does clinical work in hospitals, working closely with doctors and filling patients' prescriptions. (You probably won't catch a D.P. or a D.Pharm in your local drugstore, as many behind-the-counter pharmacists hold undergraduate (B.S.) degrees in pharmacy, which enables them to fill prescriptions.)

Training: A D.P. or D.Pharm or degree requires six years of study. The first two years usually consist of prepharmacy undergraduate courses, followed by four additional years of professional pharmaceutical study.


D.P.M.: doctor of podiatric medicine

Translation: A podiatrist can prescribe medicine and perform surgery for any problems associated with the feet.

Training: After a minimum of 90 class hours of undergraduate training, a D.P.M.-in-training completes a four-year podiatric program.


O.D.: doctor of optometry

Translation: An optometrist, or eye specialist who assesses vision and determines whether glasses or contact lenses are needed.

Training: Following a minimum of 90 class hours of undergraduate study, a graduate optometry program takes four years to complete. Since optometrists are not physicians, they can't prescribe drugs or perform surgery. (An ophthalmologist, on the other hand, is an M.D. who can diagnose eye-related disorders, prescribe medication, and perform surgery.)

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