The DO’s Declassified Specialty Selection Guide

Are you looking for more information about choosing a specialty?

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Look no further, The DO Magazine has a great archive of articles that go over the unique aspects of 19 different fields. For medical students, the articles also cover what program directors are looking for in applicants, from interpersonal skills to board scores.

From A to Z, here is a guide to help you find the perfect specialty for you.


Anesthesiology– “Anesthesiologists like to joke, “We put people to sleep.” But in fact, the specialty is anything but dull.”

“As anesthesiologists, we essentially are doing applied clinical pharmacology,” observes Mike Green, DO … “We’re giving patients medications and watching the changes in realtime as they are occurring in the operating room. That’s what makes it exciting.”

What is the real allure of anesthesiology? Read more here.


Dermatology– “The specialty pays well… [but] beyond the pay and manageable hours, dermatologists usually love what they do, points out David L. Grice”

“I see patients probably 70% of the time and spend about 30% of my time doing dermatopathology—reading slides, looking at excisions and biopsies. I love this mix of responsibilities.”

Is dermatology for you? See what DO Magazine has to say.


Emergency Medicine– “What other job could I have where I get paid to shove big needles in people’s backs and put a piece of plastic between their vocal cords? I love my job,” says John F. Dery, DO

“We’re adrenaline junkies,” Dr. Mitchell says. “We like the unknown.”

See what makes a great ER doctor here.


General Surgery– “It’s very gratifying to be able to technically perform an operation successfully… And the satisfaction you get when you extend someone’s life is unbelievable. I have many thank-you cards on my desk from patients and their families. They are so grateful. You can’t put a price tag on that.” says Joseph J. Stella, DO

Will you be a good surgeon? The DO Magazine thinks…


Internal Medicine– “Internists like dealing with complex issues in a very intuitive way, coming to a diagnosis and developing a treatment plan,” David F. Hitzeman, DO says. “Internists also like direct patient care.”

“Medicine is forever changing. So to be a good internist, you have to be someone who likes to read and is well-versed in the medical literature—someone who wants to keep up with the latest innovations,” says Judith A. Lightfoot, DO

Is internal medicine for you? Take a look here! 

Youtube | Bill Brett


Neurology– “I really enjoy the specialty because I find it intellectually stimulating. I like solving puzzles,” remarks Kristi Gill, DO

“Students either get neuroscience, or they don’t. They either love it or hate it.” says Dr. Cheek.

Learn why you should really specialize in neurology.

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Neurosurgery– “I like the diversity most of all. Every day is completely different,” says Jason Seibly, DO

“If you think you might be interested in neurosurgery, you shouldn’t shy away from learning more about it because you feel your grades aren’t good enough,” says Oklahoma City neurosurgeon Dawn R. Tartaglione, DO… “You’d be surprised at just whom this specialty suits.”

Are the challenges of this specialty worth it? Neurosurgeons say…


Obstetrics and Gynecology– “When I did my obstetrics and gynecology rotation, I found the experience so joyful,” says Dr. Sanjaghsaz… “The majority of the time, you are dealing with young and healthy patients.

“You take care of someone for nine months, deliver her baby, and in that family’s eyes, you are forever a hero. It’s very rewarding. Sometimes we do get tragic cases, but they are few and far between.” adds Dr. Sanjaghsaz

What would make a great OB-GYN?

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Occupational and Preventative Medicine– “We’re advocates of the medical truth, not advocates for the employer or the employee.” remarks Dr. Jones.

“I like the field because it’s wide open and you find yourself doing really interesting things,” says P. Lance Walker, DO, MPH

Check out what the career of an occupational physician is really like.


Ophthalmology– “Patients come to us with a well-defined problem—they can’t see well. And when they leave, they see beautifully. These are very happy patients.” notes Dr. Robert L. Peets, DO.

“Because most systemic diseases present with ocular findings, ophthalmologists get to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac disease, kidney disease, central nervous system pathology and many other conditions,” Dr. DiMarco says.

Will this specialty be love at first sight for you? DO Magazine explains.


Orthopedics– “There is an instant gratification that comes from repairing someone rather than taking care of someone with a chronic condition like high blood pressure,” points out Joel L. Rush, DO… “I especially enjoy orthopedics because I’m a tool junkie. I love that I get to use really cool nitrogen-powered saws and all manner of drills, chisels and hammers.”

“If you’re thinking of going into orthopedic surgery for the money, you should consider becoming a venture capitalist instead,” he says. “If money is the driving force, you are going to be unhappy.”

See what really makes a good orthopedist here. 

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Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine-“Residency-trained specialists in NMM/OMM have the skills and confidence to handle a huge range of conditions afflicting patients of all ages,” notes Dr. Seffinger

“Many OMM specialists feel they have a calling. They devote themselves to learning as much as they can about osteopathic principles and practice over the course of their professional lives to improve the health of their patients, and they seek to share their knowledge with others to raise the quality of health care on a broader scale.”

How you should specialize is osteopathic manipulative medicine?


Otolaryngology– “The vast majority of the procedures we do are to improve the quality of life,” Dr. Robbins says. “With the exception of some serious cancers, most of the conditions we address are not life-threatening. This makes for a pleasant practice environment. Our book of emergencies is small.”

“I love doing cochlear implants because I get to transform kids’ lives,” says pediatric otolaryngologist Michael S. Haupert, DO… “There’s nothing as rewarding as seeing a child respond to sound for the first time.”

Learn more about why you should consider otolaryngology.

Youtube | bobaepapa
 Proctology and Urology– “Usually people who do urology love to operate but also love to talk to patients,” says Dr. Bodell, who practices in Springfield, Ore. “You need compassion, and you need to be able to listen.”

“My father was a general surgeon, so I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a surgeon. But I wanted a field that would allow me time to have a family,” Dr. Bodell says. “With general surgery, you get called in for almost every instance of abdominal pain. With urology, patients usually see you because they want a better quality of life. There are fewer emergencies.”

Should you be a urologist? What about a proctologist. DO Magazine elaborates here.


Pathology– “In my rotations in my third and fourth year, I realized that for me the real art of medicine is in making the diagnosis,” Dr. Allison says. “Pathology is one of the few fields where that is your primary job.”

“Pathology has moved away from the stereotype of loners practicing in a vacuuum,” says David Allison, DO… “It is definitely a team-based field.”

What makes a good pathologist? Read more. 


Pediatrics– “My residents laugh, but I have a large repertoire of animal sounds,” Dr. Marino says. “I can laugh like a duck, honk like a goose and make elephant sounds. Kids love this. You’ve got to be a little goofy.”

“Anyone interested in a career in pediatrics needs to have “real concern and empathy and love for kids” [remarks Arnold Melnick, DO]. These traits are intrinsic to individuals; they can’t be developed during training, he says.

Is a love of children enough to make a good pediatrician? Learn more here.

Youtube | Chris Zaney


Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation– “The ability to get a post-stroke hemiplegic to walk is not only fascinating but rewarding, as is the ability to ease the adverse affects of spondylosis without spinal surgery or strong medications” Dr. John R. Carbon Jr., DO notes.

Dr. Richardson emphasizes, “I liked the trauma of emergency medicine, but I wanted to be able to follow up and know what was going on with patients afterward. I liked the puzzles that neurology offered. I liked the complexity of internal medicine. And I liked the diagnostics of orthopedics. Physiatry is an amalgam of all of these fields.”

Check out DO Magazine’s recommendations on why you should go into this specialty.


Psychiatry– “To be a good psychiatrist, you need to understand disease and illnesses in a broader context, which is very much like osteopathic philosophy” declares Dr. Baron

“In many other medical specialties, you treat patients algorithmically. With psychiatry, you can’t do that. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment.” says Dr. Piccinini.

Would that frustrate you or intrigue you? Read more here.


Radiology-“We’re the doctor’s doctor,” says Dennis P. Vollman, DO.

“Radiology appeals to detail-minded individuals who like detective work, notes Dr. Wong. “You need a good understanding of anatomy and curiosity about what makes the body tick,” he says.”

What makes a stellar radiologist? Do you have what it takes?

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Originally Published 8/11/14

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Ryan Nguyen, "Almost" DO

Ryan Nguyen is a DO student at the Western University College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific and blogs about medical school at In addition to school, he is a Foundation Scholar for the California Academy of Family Practice and Student Ambassador for Doximity. He tweets @RNguyenMed.