Why Are Surgeons in the UK Called Mrs, Ms, Miss, or Mr?
Generally speaking, in most parts of the world a doctor is a doctor once they graduate from medical school. Whether a physician or surgeon, they both use the title doctor. And most often times the title doctor is gender neutral. A key caveat to this is in Spanish speaking countries where a female doctor may be called a doctora, abbreviated Dra.
But in the United Kingdom, surgeons generally go by the title they held before they were medically qualified.
For example, let’s say a fictitious friend our ours named Madeline Yancey has long dreamed of becoming a doctor. But not just any doctor; Ms Yancey wants to be a surgeon. Wielding the knife, wearing her surgical scrubs, and dedicating her life to the betterment of others through scalpel and retractor. She works hard, gets excellent grades, and is accepted to medical school. For her entire time in medical school she dreams of the day that she will graduate, put all of the classes behind her, the long hours of memorizing lists of enzymes, and be called Dr Yancey. Finally, that day comes, and she is thrilled to begin her surgical training, from which she emerges several years later, a little weary, but now a full-qualified surgeon.
Now what? Dr Yancey once again reverts to Ms Yancey! Why? All that work to be called Ms Yancey?
Well, being called Ms Yancey in the UK medical system is a sign of respect, a sign that this is a qualified surgeon, and no mere physician (I say this in jest). Someone who has earned the right to cut people open and rummage around in their innards by way of healing them.
Okay, But Where Does This All Come From?
All of this goes back to the Middle Ages. Yes, again with the history lessons. I can’t help it, I’m a history nerd.
Anyway, back to the Middle Ages when physicians were trained in formal university settings where they would earn a doctoral degree in medicine before they could practice. The reward for enduring this course of study? The title “Doctor.” Whereas their surgical colleagues, who were often times barbers (yes, you heard me right, barbers, as in the person who cuts your hair and trims your beard). You see, barbers were handy with a knife, and thus could do the dirty work that their university-trained physician colleagues considered to be distasteful and beneath a scholar.
Before we go any further, take a minute to read my blog posting from earlier this week on what barber poles have to do with surgery to explore this idea of surgeon barbers. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Eventually barber-surgeons fell out of fashion. But surgeons still did not require a medical degree to practice. They underwent an apprenticeship with a senior surgeon that could last several years where they learned to ply their trade in the same manner that other apprentices did; such as a cooper working under a master cooper to learn how to make wooden casks, barrels, and other useful object to hold things.
It was true on the job training! But at least in London they were required to sit an examination at the end of their apprenticeship by the Surgeons’ Company, which would go on to become the Royal College of Surgeons. Outside of London, examinations were optional, if available at all. Success meant that the newly minted surgeon was given a diploma; never a doctoral degree, as such were the purview of their lofty physician colleagues.
A Tradition is Born
Because these new surgeons were not awarded a doctoral degree, simply a diploma, they were not able to call themselves doctor, and thus were referred to by the title mister. And thus, a tradition was born!
This is a tradition that continues today, and is part of the lineal honors of becoming a surgeon, and thus reverting from doctor to Mr, Mrs, Miss, or Miss (according to the wishes of the surgeon) at the completion of their training as a mark of respect on having passed through the gauntlet of surgical training.
What’s yet to be seen is whether the tradition will embrace gender neutral titles as society continues to evolve.
So, if you train and practice in the UK, don’t be surprised to find Ms Yancey, and others like her, performing surgical operations. After all, you know she’s fully qualified because they don’t call her doctor.
Time to Live Your Dream
I imagine you’re reading this because you want to live your dream of becoming a physician. It’s a dream shared by many, but accomplished by few.
There’s a growing demand for physicians worldwide. In fact, the AAMC warns that by 2033, the United States will be short 139,000 physicians!
This should tell you one thing: the world needs you! We need your talent, your compassion, your empathy, and your desire to help others. The future is bright in medicine for people like you.
That’s why I am giving you a personal invitation to join the UHSA family. We have produced doctors since 1982. We are the second oldest medical school in the Caribbean Basin. If you want to become a physician, then train with a school that knows what they are doing.
We have three programs for you to choose from. Each of which is designed to get you in practice as soon as possible.
MD Program – designed for those who have the premedical requirements, this is our direct-entry medical program that involves two years of basic sciences in Antigua followed by two years of clinical rotations in the United States and elsewhere.
MD/MPH Program – the same as our direct-entry medical program, but with the chance to earn your masters of public health (MPH) at the same time. The MPH is a much-coveted qualification in the medical community. It can enhance your chances of matching, possibly give you access to student loans (for those that qualify), and will prepare you for careers in areas like international health, preventative medicine, and others.
Premedical Program – are you a high school graduate or university graduate who lacks the premedical coursework, but have always wanted to be a physician? Then the accelerated premedical program is right for you. The quickest route to a career in medicine, and direct admissions to the MD program at UHSA
The UHSA family is waiting for you. Contact our Admissions Team today!