The irrelevance of being a doctor

Massimo GaetaniWe can in general assume that the prefix “Doctor” or “Dr” can identify people with two very distinct academic paths:

  • Medical doctors, including various specialisations
  • People with a PhD or Doctorate in any subject, ranging from history to engineering or physics

People belonging to both of the above categories can call themselves “Doctor” and it’s legal to do so.  If you work in a hospital and you are Dr Smith most people will assume you are an MD; if you work as a researcher at the engineering department of Cambridge University and you are called Dr Jones most people will assume you have a PhD in a relevant scientific discipline. Somehow it doesn’t really matter as the HR department of your employer will have done their job to check that you are qualified for the job they are offering.

When people operate as freelance self-employed in private practice within health care and complementary health, there are indeed governing bodies to ensure that each individual is not misleading people by using titles they are not qualified for.  The point I am making about the irrelevance of being a doctor is when certain individuals have a PhD in a subject which is totally irrelevant to what they are practising (e.g. maths) and still call themselves doctor when working as a massage therapist or a hypnotherapist.

In the five years I have been running our clinic, I have met at least a dozen people who are using their doctor title when practising in private practice while having a doctorate or a PhD in a subject which is irrelevant to what they practise.

So if you are about to get a treatment from someone and you are not sure about their background and qualifications feel free to ask and let them explain why they call themselves doctor.

One thought on “The irrelevance of being a doctor

  1. While on one level this is true, a PHD does give evidence of the ability to analyse information and to organise the presentation of this data. This skill is crucial to many therapies.

    So while not necessarily directly relevant I can still see a PHD in any subject enhancing a therapist’s skills, especially in the talking therapies.


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