What is a DO?

What is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine(D.O.)?

Wikipedia says it quite well:
“Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) is a professional doctoral degree for physicians and surgeons offered by medical schools in the United States. A D.O. degree graduate may become licensed as an osteopathic physician, having equivalent rights, privileges, and responsibilities as a physician who has earned the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree.   D.O. physicians are licensed to practice the full scope of medicine and surgery in sixty-five countries, and all fifty states in the US.
Upon completing medical school, a D.O. graduate may enter an internship or residency training program, which may be followed by fellowship training. Some D.O. graduates attend the same graduate medical education programs as their M.D. counterparts, and then take M.D. specialty board exams, while other D.O. graduates enter osteopathic programs, and take D.O. specialty board examinations.
The one notable difference between D.O. and M.D. training is that D.O. training adds 300 – 500 hours studying techniques for hands-on manipulation of the human musculoskeletal system.”

Both D.O.'s and M.D.'s are complete physicians. They are both licensed by state and specialty boards to practice medicine, to perform surgery and to prescribe medication. 

D.O.'s Bring Something Extra to Medicine
Osteopathic schools emphasize training students to be primary care physicians.

D.O.'s practice a "whole person" approach to medicine. DO’s can treat specific symptoms or illnesses, but they regard your body as an integrated whole,  and focus on preventive healthcare.

D.O.'s engage in additional training about the musculoskeletal system – your body’s interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones that make up two-thirds of its body mass. This training provides osteopathic physicians with a understanding of the ways that an injury or illness in one part of your body can affect another. It gives D.O.'s a therapeutic and diagnostic advantage in patient care. 

Osteopathic manipulative training (OMT) is incorporated in the training and practice of osteopathic physicians. OMT allows physicians to use their hands to diagnose injury and illness and to encourage your body’s natural tendency toward good health. By combining all other medical procedures with OMT, D.O.s offer their patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.

History of Osteopathic Medicine
Osteopathic medicine is a unique form of American medical care that was developed in 1874 by frontier doctor Andrew Taylor Still. Dr. Still was dissatisfied with the effectiveness of 19th century medicine. He believed that many of the medications of his day were useless or even harmful. Dr. Still was one of the first in his time to study the attributes of good health so that he could better understand the process of disease. Dr. Still founded a philosophy of medicine based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. The philosophy focuses on the unity of all body parts. He identified the musculoskeletal system as a key element of health. He recognized the body’s ability to heal itself and stressed preventive medicine, eating properly and keeping fit.

Dr. Still pioneered the concept of "wellness" more than a century ago. In today’s terms, personal health risks – such as smoking, high blood pressure, excessive cholesterol levels, stress and other lifestyle factors – are evaluated for each individual. In coordination with appropriate medical treatment, the osteopathic physicians act as a teacher to help patients take more responsibility for their own well-being and change unhealthy patterns.

Just as Dr. Still pioneered osteopathic medicine on the Missouri frontier in 1874, today osteopathic physicians serve as modern day medical pioneers.

They continue the tradition of bringing healthcare to areas of greatest need:
Over half of all osteopathic physicians practice in primary care areas, such as pediatrics, general practice obstetrics/gynecology and internal medicine. Many D.O.'s fill a critical need for family doctors by practicing in small towns, rural, and other underserved areas.