Why are surgeons called Mr.?

+67 votes
asked Mar 14, 2015 in Culture & Society by TheronAmos39 (230 points)
Why are surgeons addressed as Mister instead of Doctor?

2 Answers

+16 votes
answered Mar 20, 2015 by brandon (930 points)

In most parts of the world, physicians, surgeons, and all other medical practitioners are referred to as “doctor”. However, in the UK, surgeons are generally called Mr. or Ms. This is because as early as the Middle Ages, physicians were unable to practice medicine without embarking on formal university training. This degree was called a doctorate and entitled the bearer to the title of Doctor of Medicine.

Until the mid-19th century, the training of surgeons functioned very differently. They did not need to attend a university to obtain a degree. Instead, they worked as an apprentice to a surgeon, and then took an examination. In London, the Surgeon’s Company gave this exam after 1745 and after 1800 it was given by the Royal College of Surgeons. If they passed, the students were awarded a diploma, not a degree. So, not having a doctorate, the surgeons continued to use the title ‘Mr.’ like anyone else.

Outside the city of London and in the larger cities, surgeons started with an apprenticeship like many other tradesmen, but did not necessarily have to take an examination. Today, physicians, surgeons, and all other medical practitioners, must undergo training at a medical school to earn their degree. Then after that, a period of postgraduate study and training is needed to achieve the status of consultant surgeon. So the tradition of surgeons being referred to by regular honorifics. Essentially, the person starts as a Mr. or Ms., becomes a Dr., and then goes back to being a Mr. or Ms. again.



+6 votes
answered Mar 17, 2015 by StephanTeece (260 points)
Why are surgeons called Mr.? To answer this question, the basic background of British medical system is needed.

In Canada and the United States, they use the “Dr.” title. Surgeons’ using regular honorifics is a British tradition that originates from a time when medicine and surgery were two very different practices. At one time, surgeons were barbers on the side and gained their skills through an apprenticeship rather than a college or university. In fact, the Hippocratic oath prohibits physicians from performing surgery. On this side of the Atlantic, this custom is considered old-fashioned and charming, like driving on the opposite side of the road.
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