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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Why do chiropractors, physiotherapists and osteopaths use the title "Dr"?

    I have noticed that chiropractors and osteopaths commonly use the title “Dr” but are not medically trained. I have only ever seen a couple of physios who use the label Dr. How are they able to use this title?
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    I am a specialist sports physiotherapist with a sub-speciality in adolescents in sport (as awarded bu the Australian College of Physiotherapists in 2007). In addition … View Profile

    Hi there, I can't speak for chiros and osteos, but in physiotherapy, generally you can only use the title ‘Dr’ if you have completed a PhD or Clinical Doctorate. These are both higher level academic degrees once you have completed your entry-level physiotherapy degree, which is usually a Bachelor of Physiotherapy, and generally you have to complete your masters before, or as part of, your doctorate. A PhD is essentially a research degree, the research that physiotherapists undertake is often clinical research and often PhD candidates remain doing some clinical work whilst they are competely their PhD. A clinical or professional doctorate is essentially a very high level clinical or course work degree, but it must also include some research. People undertaking their clinical or professional doctorate are generally clinicians and so remain working clinically while they undertake their doctorate and the subjects they chose are generally very clinically based. A PhD or Clinical Doctorate is usually 3 years full time or 6 years part time and your masters is generally the first year full time. Masters degrees in physiotherapy are either clinical, such as a masters in sports, paediatric or musculoskeletal physiotherapy, or they can research based. Generally this pathway from Bachelor, to masters, to Doctorate is followed in all areas of acedemia, however, more recently, people are doing another degree before they start doing physiotherapy or other courses, this can be for various reasons, such as not getting the marks to get undergraduate entry into their field of chose or deciding on a different career. They then complete a graduate entry masters course - this is an entry level degree in physiotherapy. Some universities are now offering a graduate entry doctorate in physiotherapy, again this is an entry level physiotherapy degree. Both the graduate entry masters and doctorates does cause some confusion and the Australia Physiotherapy Association is aware of this confusion and is discussing ways to make it less confusing. In physiotherapy, there are 3 tiers, tier 1 is a graduate level physiotherapist, tier 2 is a titled physiotherapist (that is a sports physiotherapist, paediatric physiotherapist, musculoskeletal physiotherapist) and you have to complete a masters or equivalent in the speciality area to be allowed to use these titles, tier 3 is a specialist physiotherapist (that is a specialist sports physiotherapist, specialist paediatric physiotherapist and so forth), specialist physiotherapist have to first be titled physiotherapists, then complete a training program, which may include a clinical doctorate, and sit clinical exams, they then become fellows of the college. This is a similar pathway as medical specialists. At the present time, you must be registered as a specialist with the health registration board to be able to legally use the title of ‘specialist’. Physiotherapists have been granted authority to use the term ‘specialist’ whilst the registration board reviews our process - I think currently, physiotherapists, are the only profession other then medical specialists who have this authority.

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    Dr Greg Sher

    Chiropractor

    I am the Clinic Director of the Sydney Spine and Sports Clinic.At our clinic, we see an equal mix of city office workers and elite … View Profile

    Hi. Chiropractors have been awarded the right to use the honourary title “Dr”, just like medical doctors have been (the standard medical degree is a dual bachelor of medicine and surgery). Unless anyone has completed a PhD or Doctorate, the title is honourary.

    The one rule we all have to live by is to not misleed the public into thinking we are anything that we are not, therefore, if we use our titles, it should be followed by Chiropractor in brackets. 

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    Located in Armadale and Doncaster, Dr Michael Black has an interest in childrens' health and pregnancy. He is passionate aout sharing the benefits of chiropractic … View Profile

    It is interesting to note that in the USA, medical doctors are awared the title M.D. rom the Latin Medicinae Doctor meaning “Teacher of Medicine”. In Britain, EgyptPakistan, India, Ireland, and many Commonwealth nations, including Australia, the medical degree is instead the MBBS i.e., Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB, MB BChir, BM BCh, MB BCh, MBBS, BMBS, BMed, BM).

    I submit that any practitioner who has achieved the pinnacle of academic study in a particular professional stream may use the honorary title of Dr without implying they practice medicine and that medical practitioners in Australia with a double bachelor degree are no more entitled than others to use it…just a concept to think about.


    Doctor, as a title, originates from the Latin word of the same spelling and meaning.The word is originally an agentive noun of the Latin verb docēre  'to teach'. As an instructor to my patients and chiropractic students over many years, I do not shy from using the title in its literal sense either.

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    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    This is a hard one which to some extent reflects social convention.

    I have a PhD, as does Dr O'Sullivan-Pippia (see above) so we both have academic grounds for using the “Dr” label. Other biomedical/health professionals may choose (by social convention) to use the “Dr” label, even though it does not reflect their formal academic qualifications.

    I think that the important thing, when interacting with a health professional, is to ask yourself: “Does this person have the training, skills, experience and professional knowledge which meet my needs?”

    Whether or not that person chooses (by social convention) to label him/herself as a “Dr” is irrelevant to the answer to that question.

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