The title of “Doctor” is earned by completion of a doctorate level program at an institution of higher education. Physicians have fiercely protected the title in clinical settings, however physicians are certainly not the only doctorate level trained professionals providing services to patients. Traditionally the title of Doctor has been used in clinical settings by physicians, MDs and DOs. However, other doctoral level trained professionals also have used the title, i.e., podiatrists, dentists, chiropractors, etc. With doctoral level training expanding to other professional fields, such as physical therapy, pharmacy, occupational therapy, athletic trainers, nurse practitioners, and PAs, etc., it is time to reevaluate the use the title of doctor in a clinical setting.
Many state’s laws and regulations, oversight boards, and institutions have established policies regarding who can use the term doctor in a clinical setting. However, most jurisdictions allow for the use of the title in a clinical setting by non-MD/Dos who have completed a doctoral level educational program if the clinician is clear that they are not presenting themselves to be a physician. Any doctoral trained PA should be aware of the restrictions of use of the title Doctor in their own jurisdiction.
With the above considerations, it is the policy of the Academy of Doctoral PAs that the title of Doctor should be allowed to be used by any doctoral trained PA in any setting, if the PA is not misrepresenting themselves as a physician.