Becoming a Physician

There are two kinds of degrees to become a physician: Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO).

Most U.S. physicians are MDs, but interest in osteopathic training in growing. According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, osteopathic medical colleges are educating 25 percent of all U.S. medical students.

Both MDs and DOs are fully trained and licensed physicians. Both attend four years of medical school and must complete at least three years in residency—sometimes up to seven years—training in their specialties.

Osteopathic physicians differ from MDs in their training on osteopathic manipulative treatment and their focus on disease prevention.

Kentucky has three medical schools: the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, the University of Louisville School of Medicine , and the University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Regional Training in Primary Care

The UK College of Medicine has expanded student training to three regional campuses to address the shortage of physicians in Kentucky:

  • Bowling Green: A partnership with Western Kentucky University and the Medical Center at Bowling Green, the four-year regional UK campus here accepted its first class in 2018.
  • Morehead: The Rural Physician Leadership Program, in partnership with Morehead State University and St. Claire Regional Medical Center, accepts up to 10 students per year. In this four-year program, RPLP students complete their first two years of medical school in Lexington, and then in their third and fourth years of medical school, they complete the majority of their clinical experiences at St. Claire Regional Medical Center and with other healthcare providers in Northeast Kentucky.
  • Northern Kentucky: A partnership with St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Northern Kentucky University, the four-year regional UK campus here opened in fall 2019 with an inaugural class of 35 students.

Area Health Education Centers

You can learn more about health careers and job shadowing opportunities, particularly in primary care, through your local Area Health Education Center (AHEC).

Offices in Bowling Green, Madisonville, Murray, and Louisville’s West End are under the direction of UofL’s School of Medicine. Offices in Morehead, Hazard, Mount Vernon, and Covington are under the direction of UK’s College of Medicine.

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