What does the title MD mean?

Have you seen the television series ” Dr. House ”? You will surely remember seeing an M.D at the end of the title. What will those initials stand for?

In this post we are going to answer the question ‘’What does the title MD mean?’’ We will explain what these initials stand for, and how to obtain this mysterious title and how its use changes according to different situations.

What does the title Md mean?

The title MD means ‘’Doctor of Medicine’’ They represent the type of medical school attended by the doctor and the certification test they took to become a doctor.

The foundations of American medical education, as it is known today, were forged during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

At that time, American medicine was already under the domination of allopathic medical schools, which had displaced, almost exterminated, in open battle all other existing medical disciplines: homeopathy, osteopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, medicine, traditional Chinese and traditional Hindu medicine.

In the US, medical degrees are divided into two programs: Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) who consider the body as an integrated whole, as opposed to treating specific symptoms, and Doctors of Medicine (MD), who use allopathic medicine (or Western medicine) that treat symptoms with medicine and surgery.

There are 141 master’s programs and 30 D.O. in the U.S.

While obtaining a college degree is not an explicit requirement for some medical schools, virtually all admitted students have earned at least a bachelor’s degree.

How to get the title of MD?

The academic requirements to obtain this degree in the United States are:

1.       Bachelor’s degree

The university degree that the majority of those who apply to medical schools in the United States has is the BS (Bachelor’s in Science). This is because Medicine is considered a career for graduate students and not for undergraduate students.

It is for this reason that if you want to study Medicine in the United States, you must first obtain your Bachelor’s Degree in a career related to natural or applied sciences such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics or pre-medicine.

Once you have obtained your bachelor’s degree after four years, you will already be eligible to apply to a medical school.

An alternative to the four-year Bachelor’s is an accelerated pre-medical curriculum known as Pre-medical studies or simply Pre-med, which can be scheduled in two- or three-year terms.

These accelerated pre-medical courses, not suitable for the timid or lacking in spirits, must have the recognition of the medical school that will finally accept the student and are subject to compliance with all other entrance requirements.

Students who have completed a three-year premedical will receive their university degree at the end of their first year of Medicine, while those who have completed a two-year premedical will be awarded their degree upon completion of the first two medical years.

2.       Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

It is a national exam required by all American medical schools, and is prepared and conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

National MCAT-style exams are also required for entry to other schools of professional studies, such as the DCAT for dentistry, the LSAT for law, and others.

The MCAT is an entrance exam required by all American medical schools. This test examines the understanding of the basic concepts of Biology, Physical Chemistry as well as the oral, writing and reasoning skills of the applicants.

The MCAT is taken at least eighteen months in advance of the pre-registration process.

3.       Undergraduate Medical Education (general medical training)

Equivalent to undergraduate at this level, but refers to basic or primary education: a four-year program of study at any of the 125 accredited medical schools in the United States and the 16 Canadian schools.

The medical curriculum is generally divided into the first two pre-clinical years (basic or preclinical years) and the last two called clinical years, in which the teaching hospital is the main field of training.

The title that usually appears on the diploma of an American graduate is Medicinae Doctoris, from which the post-nominal acronym MD, characteristic of North American allopathy (USA and Canada), is derived. Titles such as Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Medicine and Surgery also appear.

In Anglo-Saxon systems (eg, those of the United Kingdom, Australia, Jamaica and others), the Bachelor in Medicine, with the acronym BM, Bachelor in Surgery, with the acronym BS or BCh, and the Bachelor in Obstetrics, BEAM.

The title BM would be the equivalent of the North American MD.

The degrees that combine medicine and surgery, in English or Spanish, do not mean that the graduate is already a trained surgeon, far from it. The expressions “and Surgery” or “and surgeon” are archaic remnants of times past.

A little bit of history

Centuries ago, both capacities, surgery and medicine, were recognized, but this consisted predominantly in the use of lancets to bleed patients and reduce the “bad blood”, the main cause of all ailments, according to the etiological notions of the moment.

In fact, such vascular cuts were made by a barber or a butcher, the true specialists in razors and knives, not a doctor with clean hands with no interest in lowering himself to such work standards.

The translation of diplomas, in my opinion, should omit that part of the title both in one direction and in the other, to avoid the mistake of awarding a modern surgical specialty to the graduate.

MD plus a doctorate

It is also possible in the United States to combine the studies of Medicine and those of another academic degree, usually a Master’s (master’s) or PhD (doctorate) in Medical Sciences, or even a JD (doctorate in jurisprudence), in an academic marathon of between six and eight years after Bachelor’s.

These individuals, in most cases, are destined to occupy a university position.

It is worth emphasizing the difference between MD and PhD in science, which, in the United States, are usually two entirely different paths that are sometimes pursued simultaneously.

4.       Specialized medical training

Once the basic medical studies are finished, the so-called Graduate Medical Education begins, divided into postgraduate years or PGY. To the formative years after graduation they are known as training years

PGY 1 (internship)

PGY 1 is the traditional year of unsupervised medical practice. The term internship has lost the approval of the American Medical Association (AMA).

Of course, such a well-known and old term will continue to be used in the daily talk for a long time, but it will not appear in official documents. If the word “intern” is destined to die out, how shall we tell the intern or “intern”? In the United States, the resident is called the PG 1.

Upon completion of PGY 1, the new physician is presented for the first time with the opportunity to begin the practice of the profession, if they want to.

PGY 2-6 (residency)

These are the years of training in a basic specialty of medicine (internal medicine, general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, radiology, pathology, etc.). The doctor who attends a residency is called a resident.

PGY 7-10 (fellowship)

Fellowship is the name given to years of training in a medical subspecialty. For example, in internal medicine there are subspecialties such as cardiology, gastroenterology, rheumatology, pulmonology and others; in ophthalmology there are subspecialties such as retina, cornea, refractive surgery, glaucoma and others.

The doctor who attends the subspecialty is called a fellow in training or simply a fellow.

All medical graduates who take training programs — all PGYs: interns, residents, and fellows — are collectively called housestaff by the hospital.

The members of the housestaff are trained under the supervision of the medical staff. Among the latter, the attending physician stands out, who have the medical and legal responsibility for everything that happens to the patient during their stay in the hospital.

5.       Certifications

There are two levels of certification for physicians in the United States:

USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination)

It is a mandatory national exam that is integrated into the medical curriculum and whose approval is absolutely necessary to be able to practice medicine in the United States. It consists of the following three parts:

– Part I, upon completing the second year of Medicine (basic years).

– Part II, upon completion of the fourth year of Medicine (clinical years).

– Part III, upon completion of PGY 1 (unsupervised medical practice).

Board Certification Exams

In this case, it is a voluntary academic certification, consisting of submitting to a national examination prepared jointly by the American Board of Medical Specialists and the American Board of the corresponding specialty or subspecialty.

It is taken after completion of specialized training and, although they are voluntary examinations, their passing is convincing evidence in the professional community of the highest level of expertise in the field.

6.       License

It is an administrative requirement imposed by the State in accordance with the legislation that governs the professional practice of medicine in that State of the nation. It is simply a permit to exercise.

The State Board of Licensing and Registration verifies the physician’s credentials, grants the license, and handles all administrative matters concerning the physician’s professional practice, including patient complaints or allegations.

Another misleading point in the United States is the difference between doctor and physician. In everyday conversation they are interchangeable names. In American legal terms, however, there is a simple but strict distinction.

The doctor (of medicine) refers only to the title, while physician refers specifically to the doctor authorized to practice, who has been granted a license.

When an irregularity arises in the professional practice of a colleague, the first question is their legal status: Is he a licensed physician? (Are you a licensed physician?). In many countries, a medical degree is sufficient to practice the profession.

FAQS: What does the title MD mean?

Are you a doctor if you have an MD?

Yes, if you a Medical Doctor (M.D) degree, you’re a doctor, it’s more commonly known as a physician.

What is the difference between a MD and DO?

MDs usually concentrate on administering drugs for particular conditions. DOs, on the other hand, tend to concentrate, with or without conventional medicine, on whole-body healing. 

They have a better holistic approach in general and have been trained with extra hours of hands-on techniques.

Which is higher MD or PHD?

The higher degrees are both MD and Phd. … Although MD concerns a higher degree in medicine, it is possible to earn a PhD in various areas, such as arts and sciences.

Which came first MD or PHD?

MD was first in 1755, while the term ”PhD” started being used from 1869.

What is higher MD or DO?

Neither of them is superior to the other. Both degrees are achieved with the same academic path. In fact, DOs have more training. But its title is not more significant.

In this post we are going to answer the question ‘’What does the title MD mean?’’ We explained what these initials stand for, and how to obtain this mysterious title and how its use changes according to different situations.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


What’s the difference between an MD and a DO? (2018). Retrieved November 14, 2020, from Prevea website: https://www.prevea.com/For-Patients/Your-Wellness/Resources/What-s-the-Difference-Between-and-MD-and-a-DO#:~:text=These%20initials%20refer%20to%20the,medicine%20in%20the%20United%20States.

DO vs. MD: How much does the medical school degree type matter? (2020, October 6). Retrieved November 14, 2020, from American Medical Association website: https://www.ama-assn.org/residents-students/preparing-medical-school/do-vs-md-how-much-does-medical-school-degree-type