By: Ryan Kelly
Let’s be honest. For most students applying to medical school, DO schools are a backup. From data collected by AACOM, of the students surveyed who got into both MD and DO schools, 86% chose an MD school.
Why do some students prefer MD schools over DO schools?
There are several reasons:
Some students think MDs have a better shot at getting competitive residencies (true)
Some students think MDs have more opportunities to do research (also true)
Some students come from families of MDs who discriminate against DOs (an attitude we think is unjustified)
Because DO schools have slightly lower admissions averages, many students apply as a plan B. So what do you do if you’re one of these students? How do you navigate between the two applications with your one set of experiences?
MD Application ---------> MAGICAL BOX ---------> Ta-da! DO Application!
Let’s be honest again. Most of these students complete their allopathic applications first. There are more essays with longer word and character limits, so it makes sense.
But DO personal statements are only 4500 characters. That means you have to write a shorter essay that requires more specificity. Dang. It was already painful to trim down your AMCAS personal statement. How in the heck are you going to pull this off?
Step 1: Remove unnecessary AMCAS material (~1000 characters worth)
Look at the types of experiences in your AMCAS personal statement: autobiographical, global/traveling, volunteering, research, clinical shadowing, etc. Unless you’ve performed osteopathic research or shadowed a DO, then you can probably remove those types of experiences altogether for your AACOMAS.
Step 2: Draw connections between experiences included in your AMCAS and osteopathy
Now look at your leftover experiences. Probably three, maybe four tops. You’ve likely dropped close to 1000 characters, which is a big step, but now you must draw connections between your remaining experiences and the osteopathic philosophy toward care.
A Quick Refresher on Osteopathic Values:
Holistic care - treating the whole person beyond their physical ailments, accounting for mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well.
Prevention - major tenet of the DO philosophy, since it helps eliminate the need for invasive procedures down the line.
Body’s self-healing capabilities - osteopathy values the power of the body to self-regulate and will utilize this approach whenever possible.
Nutrition and lifestyle advice - DOs often incorporate education into their practices as a way to empower patients with tools for the future.
OMM/OMT - manipulation and touch are crucial to osteopathy - DOs will often diagnose through touch and use body manipulation to correct chronic health problems.
You might also want to read about the reciprocal relationship between structure and function.
For more on how to create AMCAS and AACOMAS essay templates, check out Why Our School? How to Knock Out 12 Medical School Secondaries with One Essay.
Step 3: Adjust your current AMCAS essay paragraphs
Your goal will be to adjust your current AMCAS paragraphs to make them more DO-specific. Ideally, you’ll just be tweaking the sentences to include osteopathic tenets, rather than rewriting the paragraphs completely.
Let’s say you have a paragraph in your AMCAS application about an outreach event, free clinic, or global health experience. Nearly all of these provide opportunities for discussing values 1, 2, and 4. If you worked with diverse patients and practiced cultural sensitivity, that would fall under the umbrella of holistic care (1). If you encountered obese patients with diabetes or smokers with COPD, then you’ve clearly witnessed the importance of prevention and lifestyle education (2, 3).
Let’s say your essay features an autobiographical story about being on the patient side of care or dealing with a health issue. Could either be you or a family member. It’s likely that at least part of the recovery process involved values 1, 2, 3, maybe even 4. You could discuss the ways that your physician accounted for your mental and emotional health (1), or discuss the advice (4) he or she gave you to help avoid the problem again in the future (2). If there were rehabilitation steps, physical therapy exercises, or any self-maintenance involved in the treatment (3), definitely mention those as well.
Step 4: Add new essay material to your AACOMAS
Besides making adjustments, you’ll also need some original material. Not too much though. The first step is isolating your “why medicine” statements throughout the AMCAS essay. You might only have one, but it’s likely you have two or three scattered throughout. Pay extra attention to the ones in your conclusion.
You’ll need to add extra phrases or even whole additional sentences to these statements. It’s important to go the extra mile when explaining “why osteopathy.” You must communicate why you want to be a DO above any other career.
WHY MEDICINE? (AMCAS) VS. WHY OSTEOPATHY? (AACOMAS)
|MD Why Medicine Conclusion||DO Why Osteopathy Conclusion|
|My volunteer experiences fueled my passion for medicine that I developed during childhood. Due to my past struggles, I can empathize with disadvantaged patients and help navigate their socioeconomic limitations. My cultural sensitivity and humility allow me to relate with diverse people, especially those who feel marginalized. I want to use medicine as a way to empower my community, by getting them back on their feet, alleviating their chronic conditions, and guiding them towards lifelong health. As a physician, I can develop close, personal bonds and open doors for people which otherwise seemed closed.||My volunteer experiences fueled my passion for osteopathic medicine, whose holistic values closely align with my background. As a DO, I can use my childhood struggles to empathize with disadvantaged patients and account for their socioeconomic limitations. My cultural sensitivity and humility allow me to relate with diverse people, especially those who feel marginalized. I want to treat patients as a whole and utilize preventative medicine and lifestyle education for long-term healing. Through training in OMM, I can develop close, human connections and restore each individual’s ability for natural healing.|
Step 5: Add some personal touches to your AACOMAS
Once you’ve made this conversion from AMCAS to AACOMAS, you may also want to add in material about yourself that seemed extraneous in your MD draft:
Do you practice yoga, meditation, or mindfulness in your daily life? When did you start? Why is it important to you? How does it relate to being a good DO?
Do you have a hobby that requires dexterity, athleticism, or coordination? When did you start? How did you get better? What did you learn about the body as a result? How does that relate to being a good DO?
Have you ever fixed something? What is a short-term repair or a long-term fix? What were the steps involved? Did you make mistakes? What did you learn, and how does that relate to being a DO?
Have you traveled often? What were the radical differences in worldviews and ideologies between the places you visited? Were there discrepancies in terms of health and education? How has cultural exposure influenced your outlook on holistic care?
This additional material could be used as your new hook, or it could be incorporated into your conclusion. Choose whatever seems most natural in terms of chronology and flow.
Are you applying to osteopathic medical schools? Comment with your AACOMAS questions and share your “Why Osteopathy” statements.