Medical School Overview

Overview of Medical School:

  1. Overview:
    • Four years of medical school and 3-8 years for residency/internships. 
    • There are 33 Osteopathic Medical Schools in the United States, and 2 in California.
    • There are 149 Allopathic Medical Schools in the United States, and 11 in California. 
  2. First 2 Years of Medical School:
    • Students spend most of the first 2 years of medical school in laboratories and classrooms, taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, microbiology, pathology, medical ethics, and laws governing medicine. They also learn to take medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses. 
  3. Last 2 Years of Medical School:
    • During their last 2 years, students work with patients under the supervision of experienced physicians in hospitals and clinics, learning acute, chronic, preventive, and rehabilitative care. Through rotations in internal medicine, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery, they gain experience in the diagnosis and treatment of illness.
  4. After Medical School:
    • Following medical school, almost all M.D.s enter a residency—graduate medical education in a specialty that takes the form of paid on-the-job training, usually in a hospital.
    • Most D.O.s serve a 12-month rotating internship after graduation and before entering a residency, which may last 2-6 years.
  5. Licensure and Certification:
    • To practice medicine as a physician, all States, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories require licensing. All physicians and surgeons practicing in the United States must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or, for osteopathic physicians, the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX). To be eligible to take the USMLE or COMLEX, physicians must graduate from an accredited medical school.
  6. Specialty: 
    • M.D.s and D.O.s seeking board certification in a specialty may spend up to 7 years in residency training, depending on the specialty. A final examination immediately after residency or after 1-2 years of practice is also necessary for certification by a member board of the American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). The ABMS represents 24 boards related to medical specialties ranging from allergy and immunology to urology. The AOA has approved 18 specialty boards, ranging from anesthesiology to surgery. For certification in a subspecialty, physicians usually need another 1-2 years of residency.

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