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Delaney Lehmann ‘18 is one of around 20 Hillsdale stu­dents who applied to medical schools in the past aca­demic year, and one of about 15 who were accepted. Delaney Lehmann | Courtesy

Before Delaney Lehmann ’18 entered the pre-med track at Hillsdale, she had never heard of osteo­pathic med­icine. After being exposed to both osteo­pathic (D.O.) and allo­pathic (M.D.) schools, however, she felt a D.O. degree would align best with the edu­cation she had received at Hillsdale.

“When I read the osteo­pathic tenants, the two that stuck out to were that the body is a unit, and that it is com­posed of body, mind, and spirit,” Lehmann said. “Those ideas which I encoun­tered in classes at Hillsdale applied to how I think about med­icine because, as a physician, those are ideas I want to bring to my practice anyway. At a D.O. school, those ideas are acknowl­edged out­right, and that was very important to me.”

Lehmann is one of around 20 Hillsdale stu­dents who applied to medical schools in the past aca­demic year and one of about 15 who were accepted. Two-thirds of those stu­dents pursued D.O. pro­grams, and one-third pursued M.D. pro­grams, but most years, the ratio is about half and half, according to Pro­fessor of Chem­istry Christopher Hamilton, who also serves as faculty advisor for the pre-pro­fes­sional society, which assists stu­dents in pur­suing various health careers.

D.O.s emphasize a holistic approach to med­icine and often decide to become general prac­ti­tioners, while M.D.s often choose to spe­cialize in a par­ticular field of med­icine. There is also a much larger per­centage of M.D.s than D.O.s on a national scale: of all 2017 res­i­dents and fellows in pro­grams accredited by the Accred­i­tation Council for Graduate Medical Edu­cation, M.D.s made up 63.6 percent, D.O.s made up 12.5 percent, and inter­na­tional medical grad­uates made up 23.8 percent, according to the Asso­ci­ation of American Medical Col­leges’ 2018 Physician Spe­cialty Data Report.

Some Hillsdale stu­dents say they appre­ciate the osteo­pathic approach because of its focus on the patient rather than on the dis­order, while others appre­ciate the more tra­di­tional M.D., or allo­pathic route. Addi­tionally, some stu­dents who orig­i­nally pursue the M.D. some­times choose the D.O. because their GPA or Medical College Admis­sions Test scores aren’t high enough to get them into many M.D. schools. The average GPA for M.D. stu­dents is 3.8, while the average for D.O.s would be closer to 3.5, Hamilton said. Some D.O. schools will also con­sider a student’s ACT score as a part of their appli­cation if their MCAT isn’t high enough.

“The important thing I emphasize to stu­dents is, you’re a medical doctor either way,” Hamilton said. “There are some his­torical dif­fer­ences, there are some philo­sophical dif­fer­ences. You go back 50 years, and there was a real bias against D.O.s. But really over time that has gone away.”

About 56 percent of D.O.s end up prac­ticing primary care, according to MD Mag­azine. Nicole Schmitt ‘14, who recently grad­uated from Marian Uni­versity College of Osteo­pathic Med­icine in Indi­anapolis and is cur­rently working in Indi­anapolis as a family practice res­ident, developed an interest in primary care well before college. After watching some of her family members go through health issues growing up, she said what res­onated with her most was the doctors who stayed with them long term.

“I love pre­ven­tative med­icine and the idea that, as a family doctor, if I see someone every year, I have the oppor­tunity to teach them about their health and make sure that I’m doing what I need to do to monitor things so that we can keep them healthy before they get sick and to help prevent disease,” Schmitt said. “Nor­mally if you go to a spe­cialist, you’re going there if you’re already sick, but if you go to a family doctor, they’re going to be the front line in keeping patients healthy.”

Schmitt said she orig­i­nally thought she would be an M.D. until her junior year at Hillsdale when she began researching more about D.O. schools and found they tend to prepare stu­dents well for primary care.

“I think the kind of stu­dents that go to Hillsdale would flourish more at an osteo­pathic school,” she said. “Not that they wouldn’t at an M.D. school. But I just think in general from what I’ve seen, I think Hillsdale stu­dents would be happy in an osteo­pathic route, and I think they do a good job of exposing us to that at Hillsdale.”

Schmitt also noted that several M.D. schools turned down her appli­cation based solely on her grades, while Marian Uni­versity placed more emphasis on her interview and per­sonal state­ments. Schmitt said in order to make her resume appealing to D.O. schools, she tried to make her edu­cation as well-rounded as pos­sible, grad­u­ating with a bachelor of arts instead of a bachelor of science, and double-majoring in bio­chem­istry and German. She said that Marian Uni­versity told her German was a “huge plus” when they were con­sid­ering her appli­cation.

“Just having that skill to sit down and read a work or watch a film or talk to someone and interpret what they’re telling you through their lens, and knowing that the German people have a very dif­ferent expe­rience than you have had his­tor­i­cally, it’s a very great skill to have, because when you’re talking to a patient and you’re inter­viewing them, and you’re getting an idea of their health and what’s going on, their life expe­rience is going to be com­pletely dif­ferent than what might be natural or normal for you,” Schmitt said.

Lydia Seipel ’18, who is cur­rently pur­suing her master’s degree in nursing at Case Western Reserve Uni­versity, orig­i­nally came to Hillsdale intending to pursue an M.D. and was not aware of the D.O. option. She said she was sur­prised by Hillsdale’s con­nec­tions to D.O. schools and wished she could have had more exposure to M.D. schools.

Hillsdale’s con­nec­tions with medical schools do vary from year to year, depending on the interest of stu­dents, according to senior and Pres­ident of the Pre-pro­fes­sional Society Josh Brown. In the last three to four years, the college has had rep­re­sen­ta­tives from various D.O. pro­grams visit the school, including Lake Erie College of Osteo­pathic Med­icine, Liberty Uni­versity, and Marian Uni­versity, as well as some from M.D. pro­grams, including Western Michigan, Oakland Uni­versity, and Uni­versity of Michigan.

Seipel also noted that while the college does an excellent job preparing stu­dents for the rigors of medical school, it is also dif­ficult to get in without good grades.

“For anyone who is in the pre-med track, your GPA is absolutely every­thing,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the most well-rounded student; if you do not get a good GPA it doesn’t matter, because you’re going to be held up against someone from another school who has a 4.0, aced their MCAT, who vol­un­teered. I don’t think that’s nec­es­sarily the fault of Hillsdale, but I just think it’s an addi­tional obstacle that any Hillsdale student is going to have to overcome.”

Despite the college’s aca­demic rigor, Hillsdale stu­dents’ medical school accep­tance rates are fairly high. According to Hamilton, the first-time accep­tance rate for both M.D. and D.O. school appli­cants from Hillsdale over the past five years, including those who apply late, is 73 percent. Over 90 percent of the stu­dents who apply to Osteo­pathic medical schools are accepted, as well as 54 percent of M.D. appli­cants (the national M.D. applicant accep­tance rate is 45 percent). The per­centage of those who are accepted upon re-appli­cation is in the high 90s.

As far as test scores and GPA go, Lehmann said she doesn’t think they are a good measure of how good of a doctor someone will be.

“I think a person’s per­son­ality and way they view and treat other people is just as important as how well you can score on a test, or more important in a lot of cases,” she said.

Hillsdale stu­dents pursue the M.D. for various reasons. Senior Catherine Bodnar, who is planning to pursue a dual M.D. and M.B.A., said that, although she was more drawn to the osteo­pathic approach, she knew the M.D. would allow her more options for a dual degree. She also said that regardless of what career route she chose, she felt that her edu­cation at Hillsdale has pre­pared her very well for medical school appli­ca­tions.

“Even for the MCAT, I just know some big state schools have spe­cific courses that deal specif­i­cally with preparing for the English and critical rea­soning and analysis section of that exam,” she said. “And Hillsdale doesn’t have any of that, but Hillsdale has Great Books. Just going through those courses and taking that exam, I felt like that was more than enough prepa­ration.”

Elis­abeth Wynia ’16, who is in her third year in Case Western’s M.D. program and plans to do inter­na­tional medical mis­sions after she grad­uates, said she thinks in the end there aren’t a whole lot of dif­fer­ences between M.D.s and D.O.s as both study to become doctors and often go to the same res­i­dency pro­grams.

“The per­ception is that the D.O. is holis­ti­cally-minded, but my view is, you can be holis­ti­cally-minded as an M.D. or as a D.O,” she said. “So I chose to have the best of both worlds, in my mind, and get the M.D., which is a little bit more inter­na­tionally-rec­og­nized, and then per­sonally develop an attitude of treating the whole person.”

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    Inter­esting article. My primary care spe­cialist is an MD out of Wayne State Uni­versity, but he refers me to spe­cialists as nec­essary. At 64 I was enured with a bias against DO’s and towards MD’s which was prevalent during the 1970’s, but I imagine it really doesn’t matter that much for primary care. Bottom line is if they have been doing it suc­cess­fully for a long time, they’re probably pretty good at it.