This question comes from a paramedic with SA Ambulance but it’s not a paramedic or a SA question, but it’s relevant given forthcoming registration of paramedicine. Today’s correspondent says:
I noticed one of our staff members uses the title Dr. (Holding a PhD). I have a PhD from an overseas university with no affiliation with Australian universities. Am I legally entitled to preface with Dr…. (PhD)?
As noted in earlier posts (see The use of protected titles by students and others (January 30, 2018)) it is an offence to use a title that is protected under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law. For medical practitioners the only protected title is indeed, “medical practitioner”. The term ‘Doctor’ is not a protected title indeed because it used by people other than medical practitioners. Dentists, vets (http://www.vsb.qld.gov.au/policygeneral.html#title) and, of course, the holders of doctoral degrees, PhD, SJD etc.
The use of the term Doctor (or title Dr), even by medical pracitioners is an honorific and use of the title is really governed by convention alone. The only limit is one should not use the title in a way to mislead or deceive others, so if you use the title in circumstances where you hope to obtain a benefit or other advantage, or improve your standing or credibility by making people believe you are something you are not, then you may be committing an offence (eg under Fair Trading law about not engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct in trade or commerce; or criminal law with respect to obtaining a benefit by deception).
If you got your PhD by buying it from a US mail order company perhaps not, but if you hold a PhD from a genuine overseas (or Australian) university you are absolutely entitled to call yourself ‘doctor’.
I’m immediately suspicious of the person posing the question ….
Anyone who holds a PhD and does know the acedmic convention is sus to me !!
What’s he doing with SA Ambulance, if he has PhD, but isn’t recognised for it ?
That’s unfair. My correspondent says he holds a PhD from an overseas institution so it’s fair enough to not know the conventions or law here. As for ‘what’s he doing with SA Ambulance’ a PhD is a research degree but it doesn’t cut off non-research careers. Perhaps the PhD study was related to paramedic work as there is increasing research in the field and it’s only appropriate that people will do PhD in paramedic studies. Or perhaps it’s a PhD from an earlier career? There are an infinite number of possibilities and we should never rush to judgment.
One of the unusual uses of ‘doctor’, is for holders of the Master of Chiropractic degrees.
The only Masters degree, where the holder may call themselves ‘doctor’ ( in Australia ).
A medical practitioner with a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) can call themselves ‘doctor’. As noted the use of the title is entirely governed by convention.
Should have said …..
‘ …….. other than the Medical profession ‘.
‘Doctor of Medicine’ programs are increasingly replacing the older MBBS qualifications for medical practitioners and these are actually masters levels courses not PhD/doctoral level courses. Most post graduate entry medical courses are now these ‘MD’ (Doctor of Medicine) programs. Graduating with an MBBS is increasingly rare now.
and BVSc and BDSc
Well, the MD degrees are level 9 AQF at masters level, yet they use the title ‘Dr’
There is a difference between using the title “Dr Phil” and declaring “I am a doctor” in a health scenario. I attended an event where there were chiropractors treating competitors. Their ID’s stated “Doctor” (Not “Dr”) in big print with their name below in a smaller font. Only when they turned around did you see their screen printed polo shirts advertising “XXX Chiropractic Clinic”. To me that is misleading.
Greg, I don’t use the title ‘Dr Phil’, I am Dr Michael Eburn or, equally, Doctor Michael Eburn. “Dr” is just an abbreviation as “Mr” is an abbreviation of Mister. But that is different to saying ‘I’m a doctor’ at a health scenario and of course I wouldn’t do that. There’s nothing misleading in having Doctor (rather than Dr) on a name badge.
In common usage a doctor is a medical practitioner but someone with a doctoral degree is entitled to use the title Dr.
It is, as you say, a matter of common usage and convention. But as a person who holds a doctoral degree I’ve never heard of that distinction but I can understand it. One would understand that someone with ‘Doctor’ on their emergency service overalls is a medical practitioner but one would also expect that if it said ‘Dr. [Name]’, simply because in that context there would be no point in identifying that the person was a Doctor of Philosophy.
If you have an ‘MD’, you aren’t referred to as ‘doctor’ anymore.
You become ‘mister’.
These are some of the mysteries of the medical profession ….
Isn’t it the case that surgeons are called ‘Mister’ (assuming they’re men) rather than ‘Dr’. https://www.rcseng.ac.uk/patient-care/surgical-staff-and-regulation/qualifications-of-a-surgeon/#Why
No, as Michael says, surgeons are “Mr”. I understood that a long time ago the physicians were doctors of divinity. Their sidekicks trimmed their locks and did the hands-on stuff like blood letting, hence the barber surgeon who was just a mister.
I agree with Assoc Prof Eburn above in that the key question is that of misleading or deceptive conduct.
By way of example, In modern paramedicine, it is by no means uncommon for practitioners to work right alongside “medical doctors” (ie holders of MB BS and equivalent).
Clearly, if Julie Paramedic PhD was to be called “Doctor” in that context, then it could generate a significant prospect of misleading or deceiving the patient.
Likewise, if Julie Paramedic PhD was doing “paramedic event work”, and was addressed as “doctor”, then that too could give rise to confusion.
Thing is, come registration, a paramedic with a PhD may have difficulty defending an allegation of unsatisfactory professional conduct, where they allowed their (otherwise legitimate, and hard-earned) title to mislead, deceive, or confuse.
By contrast, there are other contexts where the prospect of being misled or deceived is greatly reduced – such as in academic life.
Given the high level of understanding among academics of the hierarchy of qualifications, the prospect of one of them confusing a PhD with, say, an MBBS, is negligble.
Consider for example, the now numerous academic nurses who hold PhDs. They are indeed entitled to be called “Doctor” . However (at least in my experience), doing so is typical only in the more formal, and usually non-clinical, contexts.
Lawyers face a similar question.
With the advent of the “JD” – the degree of “Juris Doctor” – as an alternative to the LLB (Bachelor of Laws), I am asked several times a month whether or not this is equivalent to a PhD.
This is usually followed by the question of whether or not a JD gets to call themselves “Doctor”.
To cut a long story short, no, they don’t.
In its most advanced incarnations (such as UMelb), the JD is an AQF Level 9 degree. That is, the same level as an LLM.
Doctorates are AQF level 10.
What if you hold a PhD from a US diploma mill and style yourself as Dr X X on websites, various committees, company publications and tender documents while being the CEO of a Paramedical services company? Surely the public would reasonably expect that you are in fact a medical doctor in those circumstances?
The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law says a person must not use a protected title. ‘Doctor’ is not a protected title. The mere fact that ‘the public would reasonably expect that you are in fact a medical doctor’ doesn’t convert that to an offence. There may be issues under Australian Consumer Law if one can show that the effect was to mislead or deceive potential consumers but there is no offence under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.