Monday, August 25, 2014


Patient: "I see that your badge says MD. Do you have a PhD as well?"

Me: "No, I don't. Just the MD."

Patient: "Oh. You think you'll go for your PhD?"

Me: "No, I don't think I will."

Patient: "I guess an MD is good enough."

Me: ".... you know, MD stands for medical doctor."

He then proceeded to call me by my first name for the rest of the visit.


  1. Out of curiosity, did he happen to have a PhD?

  2. Maybe they assumed the "M" indicated that it was a Master's degree. You know, MS, MA, MBA... MD fits right in, right?

    Interestingly, what I've heard from some Chinese colleagues is that the medical system in China has two pathways to medicine: a master's degree and a doctorate. I never asked for the specifics, but I was given the impression that there is a slight difference in functionality in China. Yet when they leave China and go to other countries, they indicate the degree as "MD" regardless of whether they were in the master's or doctoral track (because, functionally, that's what they were recognized as). If your patient was foreign or more familiar with the Chinese system, I suppose there's a slim possibility that they were going off of that, as well. (Although as far as I know, China does not regard MD to PhD as a standard progression.)

  3. This is God´s revenge on American´s acronym passion

  4. What a dick! "I guess an MD is good enough." How astoundingly rude.

  5. China along with many other countries including some in Europe, have a 5-year MD which does not include a bachelors. These MDs do not have an undergraduate degree.

    I am in a research program at a major university and we see these questions all the time. Someone who has earned a thesis based MS has had more schooling than these MDs. The MDs get to be post-doctoral fellows while the MS-holders are technicians. Keep in mind that the further training after the education portion is not required to state that you have an MD.

    Regarding the patient, was he British? There are differences in addressing MDs and PhDs in Britain, although this is largely generational now.

  6. I was going to basically add that an MBBS is a doctorate program after all the other comments made. There are differences between how other countries do things and how the US does it. I'm used to the English/UK/India MBBS type of thing and every now and then call some one a registrar vs. attending.

    1. No, an MBBS is not a doctorate. In the UK it is equivalent to Master's level.

      An MD in the UK is a research degree, equivalent to a PhD but related to the medical field. Therefore it is quite common for people to be MBBS MD, but never MD PhD (unless they did 2 research degrees and would also have an MBBS)

      There are many variations of MBBS which are all identical, eg MBChB, BSBM, BMBCh

      If someone educated in UK/Australia/Ireland/India etc moves to the US, they are entitled to call themselves MD once they have registered with the AMA or whatever the process is.

      An attending is equivalent to a consultant; a registrar is basically a senior resident.

    2. The above is absolutely true, but I just wanted to add that holders of an MBBS degree are entitled to be addressed 'Dr,' just the same as someone with a PhD.

      There is some peculiarity to the way British surgeons are addressed. Most of them revert back to using 'Mr' or 'Ms' after taking their surgical qualifying exams (FRCS). This is an homage to their predecessors - the barber surgeons - who were historically not given formal training in medicine.

  7. He was actually a very sweet old man who I think was just a little confused at the moment and didn't know what the degrees really meant. I will give him the benefit of the doubt.