Can PhDs legitimately claim to be Doctors?
THE DOCTOR DEBATE
PHDS ARE PRESTIGIOUS HARD-EARNED ACCOMPLISHMENTS THAT USUALLY DENOTE THE HIGHEST POINT OF LEARNING FOR A CHOSEN FIELD OF STUDY AND THE TERM "DOCTORATE" HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH A MEDICAL DOCTOR. . . WRITES DR MUHAMMAD AMIN MALIK
I really feel pity that some medical doctors who have earned a decent name for themselves in the field of their medical practice do not know about the title “Doctor” in a boarder perspective. Indeed these medical Doctors are living in the cocoon of their medical world. I also feel that some people write in Greater Kashmir to catch the reaction of the readers, only to see that they are recognized by others. This, I think is really undesirable because a supposedly good writers should have a thorough grip on day today general knowledge.
Way back in 1995 when one day I was at Shumma Alustang Srinagar at the faculty of Veterinary Sciences and I had some interaction with a Veterinary Doctor there. In my discussions the student Doctor, by the way, asked me a question as; “what is the difference between we doctors and PhD doctors.” I made him understand that today you are doing BVSc & AH and when you complete it; the people will call you by the name Doctor. Later on when you go for MVSc you will become a postgraduate or a specialist in your field. After achieving this feat, only then you can go for PhD program in your field and it will be a doctorate degree. The Doctor was pleased with me for this clarification.
Another story, when one day I was at SKIMS to see a patient, one known patient-attendant asked me that “being a Doctor why I was not joining my services at SKIMS.” I politely told him that I am a doctor of a different field not medicine. There are numberless humorous and funny stories about medical and PhD doctors. Way back once in an IAS interview a medical candidate was asked “what is the difference between medical and PhD doctors, the candidate created a humor by saying that medical doctors are “Dr”s and PhD doctors are “DR”s. Off course there are confusions every where among the people about the term “Doctor” whether it is suitable for medical practitioners or PhD holders. At the same time it is difficult to know whether a person is a medical Doctor or a PhD Doctor unless there is a clue or some evidence.
If someone has earned the right to be addressed as “Dr. ABC,” he should be addressed with grace like that. It is rudeness if some body sends a card, letter etc to somebody else being PhD and writes “Mr. So-and-so” rather than “Dr. So-and-so.” Similarly the mention of the feats of the persons like IAS, KAS, MD must be taken care of. After all, people have not spent years in evil institutes to be called mister. While I will admit that qualifications and affiliations are important impression signals yet I will only be impressed by ones contributions in the field and towards the society and I feel concerned to interact and listen to him/her. Being a PhD, DM etc doesn’t mean that you have automatically earned glory, respect and approbation. If you have something important to say, let that stand on its own merits. If you want to be respected and loved, be respectable and loveable. One has not to rely on the fact that one has spent five, six, or however many years grinding away at a graduate degree to earn favor in another’s eyes.
The “Dr.” is a courtesy title just like Mr. or Mrs. Besides this, there are also job titles. For example a “Professor” is a job title. It is the same as referring to a police officer as "officer" or calling a cricket coach "Coach Woolmer". Like Reverend "father", Colonel, General, etc are specific job titles. It is to be mentioned here that one cannot use two courtesy titles simultaneously like “Mr. Professor". Off course there are some exceptions like "Colonel (Dr.)" "Professor Doctor" "Reverend Doctor" etc. For administrative officers like IAS or KAS we can write like Mr. /Mrs. ABC (IAS or KAS).
The word "doctor" comes from the Latin "docere" meaning “to teach.” Originally a doctor was a teacher, especially a learned or authoritative one. The earliest use of "doctor" in written English was in 1303, but the term applied to "doctors of the Church," meaning “learned men in the scriptures” or “the early teacher or father of the Christian Church.” It did not specifically refer to physicians. The sense of someone who has received the highest degree from a university or college arose sometime prior to the late 14th century and they were entitled to prefix their name with Doctor (Dr.). But this appellation of "Doctor" was usually awarded only when the individual was in middle age. Thus it indicates the dedication to learning and to the spread of knowledge. This title was later also chosen by the medical community because of the respect and prestige that it had, but it came after many centuries. Thus we can say that people with PhDs who have earned the highest academic degree awarded by a college or university in a specified discipline are the original and generic Doctors.
Though most medical Doctors don't have a formal doctoral qualification, but a Masters or Bachelors degree, yet they are called 'Doctor' in a descriptive way rather than as a matter of qualification. The term Doctor associated with a medical degree holder specifies the social doctor i.e. the one who is engaged in the work of curing sickness. A doctor may, for example, be a physician, psychologist, biomedical scientist, dentist, or veterinarian who are trained to heal patients and licensed to practice their profession. Thus Doctor used for MBBS and that used for PhDs have far different meanings. Medical Council of India (MCI) a country based organization can decide these titles for their professionals. It can also decide whether to bring a physiotherapist at par with a MBBS Doctor or not, but it has no role in general academics.
PhD (doctorate of philosophy) originally an academic degree, is awarded in every field from literature to astrophysics, not just philosophy. The word Philosophy being generally the unknown - hence researched something unknown regardless of subject. It's the highest degree one can obtain in literally from every field from basic sciences to Arts and languages etc. One can be a Doctor of Ministry, Doctor of Musical Arts, Doctor of Law, etc. Unlike MD which is actually a higher postgraduate degree in which original research element is not prominent, PhD is purely a research degree and is awarded to the people who have completed the most advanced level of education after their master’s degree. A person who is "doctorate" can be from any profession. The term "Doctorate" really has nothing to do with medicine. There are non-medical PhD's which may offer various kinds of treatment to individuals, like Psychologists. Further, the PhD can be obtained in Biochemistry, Biomaterials, Biomedical Engineering Cellular & Neurology, Pathology, Molecular Cardiology, Health Policy which are basically medical subjects.
A Ph.D. is usually designed to take 3-5 years, but it may take longer than stipulated time. To say that I have enjoyed doing my PhD would definitely be a lie. I remember that during my research work, my PhD adviser/guide would sometimes say in a humor that: “people would love to get married twice but would never go for two PhDs in their life times.” The quality of the research work can be judged from the eigen factors of the research journals where the scholar has contributed his research papers and there is no room for any plagiarism or any a fraud. Doctoral degrees are prestigious, hard-earned accomplishments that usually denote the highest point of learning for a chosen field of study.
Apart form earned degrees there are honorary degree of PhD which are conferred upon those persons who have made a significant contribution to the society or to the university etc. Honorary doctorates do not require the recipient to have any formal education or an education at the school itself, and those who receive an honorary doctorate can use the title of "Dr." if they wish. An honorary degree does not imply that the recipient is now allowed to practice the profession in which he or she received the degree or to apply to teach at any university,
Those people with PhDs having research bent of mind and contributing research papers all along can be truly called scientists. A scientist is somebody who generates new knowledge, develops novel ideas, constantly questions, falsifies hypotheses, and collects data from well designed experiments, improves the existing research etc. Off course our practicing doctors don’t fall in this category. No doubt they have the information on biochemistry, anatomy, physiology and other sciences but this doesn’t make them researchers or scientists.
In the end, I would say that all the branches of the science including medicine is one science and all supplement each other in one way or the other. One can’t imagine the miserable condition the medical science would have, if the discoveries of Physics are taken away from it. Further, our non-science subjects are paying the path to understand our cultural, economic, environmental, geographical, historical, moral, political, religious, social, Intellectual and spiritual outlook and helps us immensely to shape the world in which we live today. So all PhDs and Doctors of all forms, who are capable and competent, are important for our existence.
(The author is Associate Professor at the Department of Physics Amar Singh College, Srinagar. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Thu, 24 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 24 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 25 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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