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When A Doctor Isn't A Doctor

It is almost a cliche that in a public emergency someone will call out, "Is there a Doctor in the House"? While we have a cultural understanding that they are seeking the services of a medical doctor, there are a number of professions that use this title that have nothing to do with health care.

Within religious circles the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree is the second level of achievement for those dedicated to ministerial leadership. As well as the D. Min. there is offered the Doctor of Theology (Th. D.) for practical aspects of religious work. The Roman Catholic Church also maintains the title of Doctor of the Church although it is reserved for certain saints and only awarded posthumously. These degrees all offer the use of the title "Doctor" although they are unlikely to be qualified to treat medical emergencies.

While it is a field where medicine and medical treatments are applied, the Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine (DMV) may not be your perfect choice for health care unless you happen to have four legs and fur. Even within the established medical profession, the Doctor of Psychiatry is not required to be proficient in physical diseases nor is he qualified to dispense drugs as a Doctor of Psychology is trained to do.

A Doctor of Naprapathy (DN) is a specialist in tissue connectivity and can use manipulative treatments to ease a sore or painful joint but he is not a medical doctor. If you were in need of emergency first aid, it would do you no good to only find a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND). While he may be an excellent herbalist, chiropractic, acupuncturist or counselor, the Doctor of Naturopathy specializes in preventative treatments rather than post trauma intervention.

There is the problem of calling for a doctor in a university environment also. The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is the highest academic title available for study in any field of knowledge. With this level of education the holder of a Ph.D. is allowed to use the title of "Doctor" although his specialty may have nothing to do with medicine. While a Doctor of Literature may be perfect for dissecting a novel, you could be in dire straits if he must wield a scalpel in your defense.

The very word "doctor" derives from the Latin word "docere" which means, "to teach". It is a title of honor for those who have learned enough about their specialized field of interest to be able to train students in their chosen discipline. Of itself, the title of doctor has no particular affiliation with the medical field. It is a cultural anomaly that our first thought when introduced to someone with the title of "doctor" is that we assume he is a practitioner of the medical arts.

It is somewhat ironic that many professionals in the field of medicine are quite proficient and trained to offer sound medical advice and assistance but are not allowed to call themselves "Doctor". A highly trained nurse may obtain the Licensed Professional Nurse (LPN) degree and be as proficient as the doctor for determining the source of illness but still only aspire to the title of Miss or Mistress depending on her marital status.

The pharmacist that fills your prescription from a medical doctor is highly trained in the uses and effects of the drugs and treatments he dispenses. It is, however, unlikely your pharmacist would be called "Doctor" as it is only a recent development in the medical profession that a Doctorate level degree has been offered in Pharmaceutical Medicine.

Submitted by:

Daniel Millions

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