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Pre-Medical Preparation at UH Mānoa: Osteopathic Medicine

Text compiled from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine,
AACOM’s Osteopathic Medical College Information Book 2013,
NAAHP’s Medical Professions Admission Guide, and the UHM 2013-2014 Catalog

Osteopathic programs offered in Hawai'i: None*

*Note: Students can attend A.T. Still University in Arizona, and choose to finish their DO degree at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center. For more information, please contact Dr. Lin at (808) 697-3444. Please see:

Osteopathic DO Programs
Prerequisites for Admission
What makes a strong candidate
The Application Process
Pre-Med Programs for UHM Students
Additional Information
Downloadable Brochure


Medical doctors, or physicians, are highly trained healthcare professionals who perform medical examinations, diagnose illnesses, prescribe drugs, and treat patients suffering from injury or disease.

Physicians serve in all types of communities, from rural to inner city, and in a wide variety of settings, from private practice to clinics and hospitals. They also work in specialized settings, such as homeless shelters, schools, sports programs, prisons, nursing homes, third-world countries, and the armed forces. About one-third of the nation's physicians are generalists, or "primary care" doctors, although that percentage is declining as more physicians choose to become specialists. Generalists include fields such as internists, family physicians, and pediatricians. Specialists focus on a particular system or part of the body; examples include neurologists, hematologists, cardiologists, and podiatrists, to name only a few.

Physicians also conduct research, studying and developing new treatments for disease, teach in academia, sharing their skills by educating medical students, and work for health organizations, pharmaceutical companies, medical technology manufacturing, health insurance companies, and corporations with health and safety programs.

Related Careers: physician assistant, nursing, medical technician, dentistry, optometry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, biomedical research, biomedical engineering, and hospital administration.

There are five primary fields in medicine:  Allopathic, Chiropractic, Naturopathic, Osteopathic, and Podiatric, all of which diagnose and treat disease.

  • Allopathic physicians (MDs, Medical Doctors, or Doctors of Medicine) focus on diagnosing and treating disease; treatments include prescription medication and surgery.  Allopathic medicine offers both primary care and specializations; most MDs choose to specialize.
  • Chiropractic physicians (DCs, Doctors of Chiropracty, or Doctors of Chiropractic Medicine) focus on the promotion of health through the alignment of the musculoskeletal structure. D.C.s do not use invasive procedures such as surgery.
  • Naturopathic physicians (DNs, Doctors of Naturopathy, or Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine) focus on maintaining physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness through lifestyle choices and natural remedies such as acupuncture, reflexology, homeopathy, etc. DNs do not use invasive procedures such as surgery.
  • Osteopathic physicians (DOs, Doctors of Osteopathy, or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine) focus on diagnosing and treating disease with an emphasis on primary care, holistic evaluation, and the prevention of disease.  In addition to the core medical training, DOs receive 200 hours of training in osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), a hands-on therapy used to diagnose and treat illness and injury. The scope of practice for MDs and DOs is very similar. Osteopathic medicine offers both primary care and specializations; most D.O.s choose to work in primary care.
  • Podiatric physicians (DPMs, or Doctors of Podiatric Medicine) focus on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases concerning the foot and ankle. Podiatric medicine is an early specialization of allopathic medicine and includes the prescription of medication and surgery.

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Osteopathic Medicine Programs

Becoming a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) requires 9 to 16 years of education:

  • Bachelors Degree (~ 4 years);
  • Medical School (4 years);
  • Internship (1 year);
  • Residency (~2-7 years, depending on specialty).

Years one and two of osteopathic medical school focus on the basic science foundation of medicine and on core clinical examination skills and the systems of the body. Years three and four consist of clinical clerkships.

By the end of year two, students must pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination, or COMLEX-USA Level 1, administered by the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME). Students must pass COMLEX Level 2-CE before graduation and COMLEX Level 3 prior to the end of the internship year.

Osteopathic medical students may opt to take the licensing exams given to allopathic medical students, the United States Medical Licensure Examination, or USMLE Levels 1-3.

Following residency training, DOs take certification examinations for the residency’s specialty. Board certification is required by many hospitals and insurance companies.

To maintain Board certification, DOs must also complete a minimum number of credit hours of Continuing Medical Education, or CME. The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) sets the basic requirement, but the minimum number of credit hours is set by individual states’ licensing boards. All physicians must be licensed to practice.

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Prerequisites for Admission

Most importantly, remember that requirements vary from school to school! You must6 research to create a list of all the prerequisites you will need to apply to the medical schools you are interested in attending.

A complete list of prerequisite required by osteopathic medical schools can be found in AACOM's Osteopathic Medical College Information Book.

The following UHM courses are commonly required for admission to medical schools:

BIOL 171/L and 172/L
Introduction to Biology I and II
CHEM 161/L and 162/L
General Chemistry I and II
CHEM 272/L and 273/L
Organic Chemistry I and II
PHYS 151/L and 152/L
(or PHYS 170/L and 272L)
College Physics I and II
(or General Physics I and II)
ENG 100 and higher
Composition I and higher (2 courses)

Recommended courses may include anatomy, biochemistry, genetics, and physiology; additional requirements may include math and additional behavioral sciences.

For the MCAT2015, the following courses are also required:

MATH 140
PSY 100
Survey of Psychology
PSY 212*

Survey of Research Methods*

PSY/SOCS 225 or ECON 321*
SOC 100
Introduction to Sociology
BIOC 241 or higher

*These courses may not be required for the MCAT2015, depending on what material is covered in PSY 100.

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What makes a strong candidate?

Schools need to be certain that the students they accept will be capable of completing the medical curriculum and are likely to become good physicians.

Are you capable of completing the medical curriculum?
Medical school admissions committees are looking for students who have:

  • completed the prerequisites
  • a high overall GPA
  • a high science/math GPA
  • performed well on the MCAT
  • balanced their course load so it is challenging yet realistic

Are you likely to become a good physician?
According to the AACOM, admissions committees look for students who:

  • are well-rounded
  • have good communication and interpersonal skills
  • have a record of community service
  • have a record of leadership
  • have some clinical experience
  • have participated in a variety of extracurricular activities
  • come from diverse backgrounds
  • are motivated to pursue a career in osteopathic medicine
  • have knowledge of osteopathic medicine
  • have shadowed an osteopathic physician

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Researching Schools

There are currently 29 accredited osteopathic medical schools at 37 locations in 28 states, each one unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths. Applicants can research schools using AACOM’s Osteopathic Medical College Information Book.

Although there are resources that “rank” schools, the rankings are rarely pertinent for individual applicants or specific programs. More important is whether there is a good match between applicant and school.
To find schools that are good a fit for you (PAC peer advisors can help with this process):

  1. Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
  2. Start by considering all schools, which usually includes all 29 colleges of osteopathic medicine;
  3. Create your “Long List” by omitting the schools that do not match your professional interests, learning style, and personality
  4. Once you have your MCAT scores, create your “Short List” by categorizing the schools into “Reach,” “Match,” and “Safety,” ranking the schools by preference, and finally choosing how many schools to apply to.
If possible, visit the schools to see their facilities, talk to Admissions Directors, and chat with students.

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Entrance Exam

Almost all medical colleges require applicants to take a standardized test called the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

Preparation:  Your most important preparation for the MCAT is your undergraduate courses (not only the prerequisites for medical school), many of which sharpen your writing and verbal reasoning skills.  Remember that your verbal reasoning score is not only the most accurate predictor of how well you will do in medical school, but also the most difficult score to improve. 

MCAT Summary:  The MCAT assesses your knowledge and skills in Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning. There is also an optional experimental section, which will be rewarded with a $30 Amazon gift card if completed.  The test requires ~5 hours to complete, and entails ~144 multiple choice questions. The MCAT is administered in a computer-based format, and is offered over twenty times each year.

MCAT Scoring:  Writing samples are scored by letter grades ranging from J to T, with T being the highest; the other three sections are each scored 1-15, for a possible total of 45.  Competitive scores for the MCAT begin around 30.

Official Test Preparation Material:

  • The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam, by AMCAS
  • Practice Exams, on AAMC website

Click Here for the MCAT Overview

Click here for the MCAT2015 Overview

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The Application Process

There are three general steps in applying to allopathic medical schools: the primary application, the secondary application, and the interview.

1.  Primary applications must be filed with the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOMAS), which is a centralized application system.  Once the application is complete, AACOMAS forwards it to whichever schools the student has designated.

2.  Secondary applications or supplementary forms are specific to individual schools; schools send these to applicants only after they have received the AACOMAS application.  Both frequently request additional information, essays, and letters of recommendation.  Some schools may even screen applicants before the applications or forms are sent out.  However, secondary applications and supplementary forms differ in that the latter is not a formal application.

3.  Interviews: After reviewing the primary and secondary applications (or supplementary forms), allopathic schools invite promising applicants for an interview.  Applicants are responsible for all costs incurred while interviewing, including airfare, lodging, ground transportation, professional attire, and meals.

Traffic Rules: Although the application process varies from school to school, AACOMAS has established “traffic rules” to ensure fairness for all concerned. These guidelines are available online and in AACOM’s Information Book and stipulate both schools’ and applicants’ rights and responsibilities during the admissions process. All applicants should be familiar with these rules before applying.


  • The more you know about the school, the better your chances of being accepted.
  • Most application questions can be answered by reading the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book (available in PAC or online)
  • Contact individual schools’ Admissions Offices to find out how they handle:
      • Advanced Placement (AP) credits
      • College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits
      • military credits
      • courses taken at a community college
      • courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
      • residency issues
      • time limits on acceptable science courses
      • non-US coursework

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Pre-Med Programs for UHM Students

Problem-Based Learning Demo
A demonstration of JABSOM’s student-centered system called Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is held on the JABSOM campus, and you have an opportunity to take part in a PBL exercise.  A description of the entire educational program and a tour of the facilities are also provided.  This session is strongly recommended for those applying or planning to apply to JABSOM.

JABSOM Scholars
The JABSOM Scholars is a Doctor of Medicine Early Acceptance Program (DMEAP) for entering Hawai’i resident freshman.  The primary goal of DMEAP at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa (UHM) is to increase the number of highly qualified state residents attending UHM’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM).

Health Sciences RLP
Students with similar majors or interests live together on selected resident floors.  Residents will be able to study together, work together, and learn from each other.  This particular program is designed for freshmen considering a career in the health fields.

Native Hawaiian Student Pathway to Medicine
The Native Hawaiian Student Pathway to Medicine (NHSPM) is a program that provides support to Native Hawaiian pre-medical students who demonstrate potential to be competitive medical school applicants.  The program focuses on preparation during the sophomore and junior years.

Medical Student Mentorship Program
The Medical Student Mentorship Program (MSMP) pairs current medical students at the John A. Burns School of Medicine with undergraduate students interested in pursuing a career in medicine.  MSMP provides support to students applying to medical school and helps to foster relationships between undergraduates and medical students and faculty.

Imi Ho’ola Post-Baccalaureate Program
The Imi Ho’ola Post-Baccalaureate Program aims to improve health care in Hawai’i and the Pacific Basin by increasing the number of physicians through a 12-month educational program that addresses disadvantaged students’ academic and social-emotional needs.  Imi Ho’ola’s goal is to increase diversity in the physician workforce and produce physicians who demonstrate a strong commitment to practicing in underserved communities in Hawai’i and the Pacific.

MD-MPH Combined Degree Program
The MD-MPH Combined Degree Program is now an available AMCAS option to JABSOM for the 2012 admissions cycle.  The AMCAS deadline for the MD-MPH Program is November 1, 2011 (EST).  Applicants are required to submit applications to both AMCAS and to UHM’s Graduate-MPH Degree Program.

MCAT Revision 5
The MR5 Advisory Committee will be implementing a new revision of the MCAT test beginning January 2015.  Exam content will require three additional pre-requisite courses: Introductory Sociology (SOC 100), Introductory Psychology (PSY 100), and Biochemistry (BIOC 241 or higher).

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Additional Information

UH Mānoa's Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center (PAC) has reference books, lists of volunteer opportunities, academic planning worksheets, and one-on-one advising by peers who can help you prepare for and apply to osteopathic medical schools.

UHM's Pre-Medical Association (PMA)
UHM's Biology Club
Osteopathic Medical College Information Book by AACOM

available in PAC or on the AACOM website

American Osteopathic Association
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
AACOM Application Service
Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
MCAT2015 Information & Preview Guide
MCAT2015 for Admins: including links to the Course Mapping Tool, Webinars, Sociology and Psychology Textbook Resources, iCollaborate, and Q-UPP
Medical Professions Admission Guide: Strategy for Success by NAAHP available in PAC
Preparing for Graduate School by the Honors Program

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