PA Doctorate

Doctor Doesn’t Mean MD: Why Dr and MD are Not the Same

Yes, a DMSc is a doctor. So, same as an MD then? No. An MD is one type of doctor. Doctors with an MD or DO are also referred to as physicians. Doctors with a DMSc are Physician Associates.

Doctor Doesn't Mean MD
MDs aren’t the only doctors in healthcare.

Are DMSc’s Doctors?

It is appropriate to call anyone who holds a doctorate “doctor” because the title reflects their advanced academic achievement. Earning a doctoral degree requires years of dedicated study and research in a specific field, and it signifies that the individual has reached the highest level of academic accomplishment in their area of expertise. In the case of Physician Associates (PAs) the Doctor of Medical Science (DMS/DMSc) builds upon an intensive Master’s degree–there is no other program quite like it.

In addition, the use of the title “Doctor” has become a convention in many countries and academic institutions. It is a way to show respect for the individual’s academic accomplishments and to acknowledge their expertise in their field.

It’s important to note that while the title “Doctor” is generally used to refer to individuals who hold a doctoral degree, its use can vary depending on cultural and professional contexts. For example, in some countries, it’s customary to use titles such as “Professor” or “Mister/Madam” instead of “Doctor.” In any case, the use of titles is a way to show respect and professional courtesy.

Let’s Review

  • Doctor conveys a level of education, not a specific profession.
  • Using the title “doctor” is a sign of respect.
  • Not all doctors go to medical school.
  • Displaying credentials avoids confusion.
  • Acknowledging someone else’s achievements doesn’t diminish your own.

The Bottom Line

Dr and MD are not the same because they refer to different things.

“Dr” is an abbreviation for the title of “Doctor,” which is a general term that can be used to refer to anyone who holds a doctoral degree. This includes individuals who hold a PhD in a non-medical field, such as physics or philosophy.

“MD,” on the other hand, is an abbreviation for “Doctor of Medicine.” It specifically refers to a medical degree that is earned by individuals who have completed the required medical education and training to become licensed physicians.

While all MDs are doctors, not all doctors are MDs. Therefore, the terms are not interchangeable.

3 thoughts on “Doctor Doesn’t Mean MD: Why Dr and MD are Not the Same

  • Does this mean PA’s also take on full liability of their license and are required to register and obtain mal-practice insurance as well? I’m assuming a PA doesn’t need to be supervised by an MD? And ALL PA’s can write prescriptions for EVERY medication, including narcautics in EVERY state without an MD or DO?

    • While laws vary by state, PAs are licensed, insured, and have prescriptive authority in all US states. Controlled substance prescribing may be limited in some states.

      PAs make hundreds of clinical decisions on a daily basis–there’s no way this can be or ever really has been “supervised”. Collaboration is what does and has always occurred.

    • PAs are registered and certified with an NPI number, DEA number, national certification, and state license. PAs are liable for the care they provide. PAs also have mal-practice insurance. Supervision is a loose term and is primarily used as a reference if a PA has a question. PAs usually operate independently and have their own patient panel and can perform procedures independently. PAs also can write prescriptions for EVERY medication, including narcotics, without oversight from a physician. PAs can also bill.


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