President Trump’s doctor said Trump is not currently on oxygen, but would not say whether he ever received oxygen since his COVID-19 diagnosis.


LAS CRUCES, N.M. – As President Donald Trump spent last weekend at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., being treated for COVID-19 disease, his physician entered the spotlight as he presented daily updates about the president’s condition. 

Some of the attention on Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley arose from contradictory information he provided over the weekend and when he acknowledged Sunday that despite his cheerful presentation on the president’s health Saturday he had not disclosed the president had received supplemental oxygen and was taking a steroid medication generally prescribed in severe cases of coronavirus infection. 

Explaining the lack of disclosure, Conley told reporters he had been “trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, over his course of illness, has had.” 

The man overseeing and explaining the president’s treatment is also reportedly the first physician to a sitting president to hold a doctorate of osteopathy rather than being an MD, or Doctor of Medicine.

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Like MDs, osteopathic doctors are state-licensed physicians who can prescribe medication and treat patients through the United States. They receive similar training but with a different viewpoint on the body’s health and healing capacities.

To review the distinctions between a DO and an MD, the Las Cruces Sun-News,part of the USA TODAY Network, spoke with physician Bill Pieratt, dean and chief academic officer at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine in Las Cruces, N.M.

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

What is the distinction between a DO and an MD? 

Bill Pieratt: It really is a different philosophy of healing. Osteopathic medicine focuses on wellness and the body’s ability to kind of self-regulate, self-heal and achieve that equilibrium. It does that through osteopathic manipulation techniques (OMT) to identify any sort of dysfunction and restore function, alignment, balance and so forth.

Those techniques may be different types of musculoskeletal manipulations or adjustments. There are also muscular stretches and counter-stretches. There are soft-tissue techniques that augment lymphatic flow.

We use the same techniques as allopathic medicine and then add these osteopathic principles and techniques. 

On the allopathic side, there has been a more contemporary approach to come alongside the osteopathic philosophy of taking a more holistic approach and facilitating wellness, not simply limiting practice to the treatment of disease. 

What is ‘allopathic’ medicine?

Pieratt: Allopathic medicine is just the term used for what is considered the more traditional Western medical training (leading to an MD degree).

Is there a tension between these approaches?

Pieratt: If you go back probably