“Trust me, I’m a Doctor”
Doctor of *what* exactly?
and who’s asking?
If the person asking is in need of or seeking medical attention, then there’s only one type of Doctor appropriate – a *medical* one; a medical practitioner who is qualified and registered to prescribe medication or perform surgery. That is the generally accepted description for medicine.
Here are some interesting facts about the title Dr and its’ use here in Australia.
1. Unlike ‘Physiotherapist’ and other titles, ‘Dr’ is not a title protected by Law. This means that anyone can call themselves a Dr if they wish. You could be Dr Bill the green-fingered gardener. There would be implications however for using the title if it was misleading the public.
2. Any use of the title Dr by individuals without medical training (not a medical doctor) who do commonly chose to adopt it in their normal practice e.g. a Vet, are *required* to clarify in what capacity e.g.
– Dr Neil Meigh, Physiotherapist (D.Phty) or
– Neil Meigh, Doctor of Physiotherapy (D.Phty)
Incidentally the qualification post-nominal ‘D.Phty’ is not required to be added but may be used by way of clarification.
3. In Australia, we have what’s called a Qualification Framework (www.aqf.edu.au) which governs every nationally recognised qualification issued from an AQF Level 1 ‘Certificate 1’ through to an AQF Level 10 ‘Higher Level Doctoral Degree’, and everything in between.
There are two Level 10 qualifications: ‘Doctoral Degree’ and ‘Higher Doctoral Level’. These are the Doctors of Philosophy (PhD), also commonly understood to carry the title ‘Dr’. The same rules apply regarding appropriate representation.
There are three AQF Level 9 qualifications below a Doctoral Degree (PhD)
Level 9 – Masters Degree (Extended)
Level 9 – Masters Degree (Coursework)
Level 9 – Masters Degree (Research)
4. There are exceptions to the use of AQF qualification titles:
i) The use of the title ‘Juris Doctor’ is permitted for a Masters Degree (Extended) for legal practice
ii) The use of the title ‘Doctor of…’ is permitted for a Masters Degree (extended) for *five professions*: medical practice; physiotherapy; dentistry; optometry and veterinary practice.
5. A Masters Degree (Extended) “may not be referred to as a Doctoral Degree in any written, oral or electronic information” – that is reserved for the AQF Level 10 PhD
6. “The title ‘Doctor’ will not be used by those who hold an honorary award. An honorary award is not an AQF qualification.”
7. Just because Physiotherapy is a profession which has a Level 9 ‘Masters Degree (extended)’ does not mean that every Physiotherapy graduate has a ‘Doctor of Physiotherapy’ qualification (Clinical Doctorate) – they are still the minority. In North America the ‘DPT’ programs are a lot more common with many Physical Therapists (PTs) now having upgraded to the DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy).
8. In North America, Physiotherapists (Physical Therapists) commonly adopt the title Dr, together with Chiropractors and Osteopaths.
9. In North America and Canada, an Osteopath may have medical training in which case they are qualified to prescribe medication and perform surgery. In Canada some territories require non-medically trained Osteopaths to use the post-nominal D.O.M.T. – Diploma of Osteopathic Manual Therapy. Use of ‘manual therapy’ in titling and/or description is used to clearly differentiate a manual therapist from a medical practitioner – ‘Dr of Osteopathy’.
10. Manual “medicine” is not medicine in the medical use of the work and should not be confused with it. It refers to manual therapy i.e. using the hands to provide manual (non-medical) treatment.
11. If an individual in Australia is not a (1) Medical Practitioner (2) Physiotherapist, (3) Dentist, (4) Optometrist or (5) Vet, they *do not* have a Doctoral or Doctorate qualification, unless they also have a PhD, because those are the only professions which have them. There are no ‘Doctor of Chiropractic’ or ‘Doctor of Osteopathy’ qualifications in existence in Australia (http://www.aqf.edu.au/).
12. The post-nominals DO (Dr of Osteopathy) and DC (Dr of Chiropractic) are not *qualifications*. Osteopaths and Chiropractors using the title Dr have *chosen* to adopt the title; it does not come from their qualification. There are no nationally recognised ‘Masters Degree (extended)’ AQF Level 9 qualifications for those professions in existence in Australia.
13. Osteopaths, Chiropractors and Physiotherapists are not medical practitioners; we are health practitioners, which is why we are collectively referred to as ‘Allied Health’ disciplines.
A small handful of Physiotherapists are now beginning to adopt the title ‘Dr’ however, it is not the norm and may not be for a long time to come, if at all. Why is this? A Physiotherapist primarily trains to work in a hospital setting, not in private practice. Surrounded my medical practitioners in a hospital, a Physiotherapist adopting the title Dr would be laughed out of the ward; most likely worse.
As a student of Australia’s first ‘Doctor or Physiotherapy’ program at Bond University, my student cohort was told that we were *not* allowed to use the Dr title in spite of the Physiotherapy Board of Australia (the governing board for professional registration) guidelines clearly stating otherwise. I can imagine how someone who may have originally graduated with a Diploma or Bachelor of Physiotherapy and subsequently had four decades of clinical and academic experience may feel about a fresh-faced school-leaver graduating as a ‘Dr’ with just 12 semesters of Uni under their belt. That is the same scenario for some medical graduates (14 semesters at Bond)….
So, what’s my opinion?
For the simple reason of it being clear for the consumer, I believe ‘Dr’ should be reserved for medical Doctors and those with an AQF Level 10 qualification (PhD) only.
Dr Neil, kettlebell enthusiast.
Ps. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” and “Walking is man’s best medicine.”
Medical and pharmacological intervention is often necessary, but living a healthy lifestyle comes first!!