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A Doctor is a Doctorate, PhD or MD
Dr. Ashok Sinha
A Doctor is a Doctorate, PhD or MD
PHOTO : TIWN

There is a word that people are confused a lot about. Doctor is a popular word, inside and outside the academia. People think that a Doctor, who teaches, has a different doctorate than a Doctor who treats. Rather, people think that the teacher doctor is a doctorate and the ‘Doctor’ is the alternate name for a physician. The other day, when I was being introduced to a group of University students, before I spoke on Gandhiji, the Doctor Teacher told the students that, unlike him, I was a genuine Doctor. That day, before I spoke on Gandhiji, I spoke on Doctors and Doctors. I think the story cannot be repeated too often, because this bit of misinformation is going to cause a lot of hardship for doctors, I mean, the Physicians.

What is the meaning of the word Doctor ! Doctor means teacher, a Doctor of Philosophy is a teacher in philosophy. The word has originated from Docture, which in old English meant teacher; which in turn originated from Doceor, and Docco in Latin, meaning the same thing; Doctor←Docture←Docere ←Docero←Docco (Latin Indo European) ← Daksh (दक्ष) Indo European. Daksh (दक्ष) in India meant and still means an expert.

 In the 14th Century Church father, religious teacher, adviser, scholar, in classical Latin "teacher, were called doctors. It is from agent noun docere to show, teach, cause to know. A holder of highest degree in university is first found late 15th century as is that of medical professional, though this was not common till late 16th Century. This is the same word which has produced other words like Document, Doctrine, Docile etc. If one looks further, everything boils down to the mother word ‘Dis’, meaning to see or to show. The word Daksha in Indo European, meaning an expert, produced Docco in Latin, meaning the same thing and produced the Doctor ultimately. Even the Sanskrit ‘Vaidya’ for a physician, originates from Vidya, knowledge. 

When the Universities began to give degrees, the highest degree of doctorate was issued to people who attained enough expertise to teach the subject. Mostly the doctorate used to be in Theology. When the same started being granted to physicians, they were called Doctor of Medicine, MD in short. Later on when degrees were granted in arts, literature, they were called Doctor of Philosophy, Literature and Science etc. Gradually because there were too many degrees, it became a convention to issue a Ph.D to all doctorates except the Physicians, who remained MD and to attain that degree, they continued to submit a thesis.  Is it clear now why a physician is called a Doctor, because he/she has a doctorate, like the Ph.D and not because he/she is a physician? To understand how the tradition appeared, it is necessary to go back to the beginning of the 18th century, when physicians were distinguished by the possession of a university medical degree: an MD. “…. the possession of a medical doctorate entitled physicians and no other medical practitioner to be addressed as “doctor.”( Irvine Loudon, Medical Historian, BMJ)

“This is because, from the Middle Ages physicians had to embark on formal university training to gain possession of a degree in medicine before they could enter practice. The possession of this degree, a doctorate, entitled them to the title of ‘Doctor of Medicine’ or Doctor.” (Royal College of Surgeons)

Surgeons, or rather male surgeons, are always addressed as Mr in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, sometimes but not always in Australia and New Zealand, and rarely in Canada or the United States. This curious British tradition is such a mystery to doctors in other countries as well as to the British public that even a work as erudite as the 1996 edition of The New Fowler's Modern English Usage seems to have got it wrong. This tradition is due to the fact that surgeons did not have the highest university degree those days, they did not have a doctorate.

An MBBS on the other hand is not a Doctor in the strict sense of the term. It was to avoid confusion and as courtesy, that MBBS were also called doctors because by that time, Doctor became synonymous with Physician. It is this courtesy that created the ultimate problematic argument, ‘since MBBS is not a Doctorate and its holder is called a doctor, so MD is not a Doctorate’. It is unfortunate that most of the people are unaware of this and think that MD is a Post Graduate qualification like M.Sc The MD in India is a progeny of the British MD and that is why an MD can become a Professor in a University without any further appendage, while for an MSc physics or MA History, it is compulsory to have a PhD to reach professorship, Assistant or otherwise.  

Let us go back to history a bit again. Those of you, who attended college in the late sixties or early seventies, remember that some teachers were Lecturers. Many of the Lecturers were MA, MSc or MBBS, some had PhD or MD. In my case, I had lecturers as my teachers, in Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology and Medicine, who were MBBS. For promotion to the post of Asst. Professor, the MA MSc had to complete PhD and the MBBS had to complete MD. During this period, there were some objections from Faculty members, that someone completing MD before joining as Lecturer got punished for his/her higher qualification, and he/she became junior by three years. Medical Faculty has always been in short supply, so MCI decided to change the rules and three years spent during MD was considered as teaching experience and an MD could join directly as Asst. Professor. This caused a lot of heart burn to non medical teachers.

As time passed, things changed. The post of Lecturer was abolished, and Asst. Professor became the first post of entry for a teacher. The eligibility for Asst Professor was changed to MA or MSc for non medical persons with NET thrown in as an essential criterion. For a PhD, NET was not necessary. In the Medical Faculty however, the primary qualification remained MD and MBBS was made ineligible for the post; the first downgrading. People who made the changes forgot to delete the three years teaching experience clause from the eligibility conditions for doctors. The rule in the MCI was and still is that an Asst. Professor must have three years teaching experience during or after MD. The UPSC went a step further and modified it to “teaching experience after MD” Thus an MA or MSc could become a teacher but an MD needed extra 3 years for the same post; the second degradation. Take a look at the criteria of the MCI and UPSC and how they differ!

MCI: (C) Assistant Professor: Requisite recognized postgraduate qualification in the subject. (ii) Three years teaching experience in a recognised medical college as Resident/ Registrar/Demonstrator/ Tutor. In terms of Gazette Notification dated 03.11.2010, the following shall be Substituted:- “(i) For the candidates possessing MD/MS Degree from M.C.I. recognized medical college. Three years teaching experience in the subject as Resident/Registrar/ Demonstrator/Tutor in a recognized medical college either during the post-graduation course or after obtaining postgraduate degree in the subject.

UPSC: Assistant Professor (Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. QUALIFICATIONS: ESSENTIAL: (A) EDUCATIONAL: (i) A recognized MBBS degree (ii) Post Graduate degree in the concerned Specialty (B) Experience: At least three years’ Teaching experience as Sr. Resident or Tutor or Demonstrator or Registrar in the concerned Specialty or Super-specialty in a recognized teaching institution after obtaining the first post graduate degree. NOTE: Teaching experience in any other post like the post of General Duty Medical Officer or Medical Officer shall not be considered for eligibility purpose for recruitment to teaching posts.

Last ‘NOTE’ actually gives the UPSC away, a teaching experience with a regular paid job was not good enough, it has to be a purely temporary job where there is a guarantee that the job would be over in two or three years.

Now take a look at the eligibility for an Assistant Professor in Physics; UPSC,

i. Good academic record as defined by the concerned university with at least 55% marks at the Master’s Degree level in Physics         .                . 
ii. Besides fulfilling the above qualifications, the candidate must have cleared the National Eligibility Test (NET)                            . 
iii. Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-clauses (i) and (ii) above, candidates, who are, or have been awarded a Ph. D. Degree, shall be exempted from the requirement of the minimum eligibility condition of NET/JSLET/SET. 

That’s all, no need for three years teaching experience after the Post graduate Degree. Why is this discrimination? Can anyone explain, why this three years teaching experience, before joining the lowest teaching post should be applicable only to doctors, who, in any case, spend many more years to reach the eligibility level? How many years does a Physics or Philosophy student take, to become eligible for becoming an Asst. Professor? We’ll assume that the students we’ll be discussing are all very good students. Three years BSc, two years MSc, one year for the tough test, NET, total Six Years. Join as Asst. Professor and complete PhD while teaching. How about the Physician? Six Years MBBS, 3 years rural Service for eligibility for MD and one for PG Entrance Test, three years MD, followed by three years teaching experience. That makes a total of sixteen years, nearly three times. The MD now joins as an Asst. Professor, while his classmate is already ten years senior in the job, eligible or already an Associate Professor, getting double the pay. For an Engineer it is four years B Tech, two years M Tech, one year NET, seven years, the punishment for being an Engineer is only one year, for a Physician it is ten years.

What is the present status of an MD? For all practical purposes, in spite of the intense dislike of the academia, an MD has remained equal to a Ph.D for the purpose of teaching Jobs in Colleges and Universities. For Post doctoral work, MD and Ph.D. have similar eligibility. For many courses, and jobs, MBBS and M.Sc. have remained equal. For example Tutors and Demonstrators in Medical colleges are manned by MBBS or M.Sc. Even now, an MSc in Nutrition or Biochemistry with an MBBS is not considered equal to an MD in Nutrition or Biochemistry. See the eligibility for Professor in Biochemistry and Nutrition in Medical colleges. “Professor MD / MBBS with M.Sc. with Ph. D. /M.Sc. with D.Sc./M.D. with M.Sc. in applied Nutrition or special training for a period of one year”.
But the noose is slowly tightening. By regularly calling and writing that MD is a post graduate degree, the powers in the academia have created an environment when asking for a PhD for appointment of Asst Professor and further promotion is becoming imminent. Now even a Post Doctoral DM or MCh is being called a Post graduate degree and has become a basic qualification for the post of Asst Professor. The conspicuous conspiracy is deep rooted and wide spread. 

This conspiracy is being directly abetted by the very docile medical community by their ignorance about the status of the MD. People who decide, are not doctors, even if they know, there is no reason for them to talk. The doctors must first of all know the status of an MD and then talk about it; tell friends and start protesting. Otherwise! An Assistant Professor of nay non medical department has to work for 40 hours a week for 180 teaching days a year. An Asst Professor of Medicine, works as a teacher like any other teacher in Physics, a full time Job, and at the same time works as a fulltime specialist in a teaching hospital with outpatient department, surgery, inpatient care, night duties, emergency calls and evening clinics 24x365. On top of it if the MD has to another doctoral, the revered PhD, ah.
Well, bad days are awaited, wake up doctors.
Ref.
1.      The History of Academical Dress in Europe Until the End of the Eighteenth Century
By Hargreaves-Mawdsley, W. N.
Oxford University Press 1963
Reprinted Greenwood Press, Inc.
Westport, Connecticut 1978
2.      In the UK, Ireland and many Commonwealth countries, the MD is a postgraduate research degree in medicine. At some universities, this takes the form of a first doctorate, analogous to the Ph.D., awarded upon submission of a thesis and a successful viva. The thesis may consist of new research undertaken on a full- or part-time basis, with much less supervision (in the UK) than for a Ph.D., or a portfolio of previously published work.[20]

In order to be eligible to apply for an MD degree from a UK or Commonwealth University one must hold either an MBBS, MBChB, or an equivalent US-MD degree and must usually have at least five-years of postgraduate experience. Therefore, graduates from the MBBS or MBChB degrees do not hold doctorates; however, physicians holding these degrees are referred to as "doctor" as they are fully licensed as medical practitioners. In some commonwealth nations, these interns are designated as "house officers".

At some other universities (especially older institutions, such as Oxford, Dublin, Cambridge and St Andrews), the MD is a higher doctorate (similar to a DSc) awarded upon submission of a portfolio of published work representing a substantial contribution to medical research.[21] The University of Cambridge is proposing to introduce a new degree of MedScD (more akin to the ScD degree) awarded on the basis of a career's contribution to the science or art of medicine, rather than a thesis, for which a candidate may be awarded the MD degree

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