U.K. Vets May Call Themselves ‘Doctor’

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons says “Doctor” is a proper title for veterinarians as long as no confusion results.

Veterinarians practicing in the United Kingdom are now doctors, but only if they want to be one.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) last week approved use of the courtesy title “doctor” in a move that brought the organization and its members in line with the international tradition.

The regulatory agency updated its Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons to provide guidelines for when “Doctor” or “Dr.” may be used. Veterinarians who opt for “doctor” must not confuse the public into thinking they are doctors of human medicine or holders of a Ph.D., according to the code.

The decision followed a survey of veterinary staff members, veterinary students, the public and more than 5,000 veterinarians. Four-fifths of the 11,202 respondents supported the title change.

British Veterinary Association President John Blackwell, BVSc, MRCVS, welcomed the decision.

“It is particularly heartening that one in five of the respondents to the consultation were animal-owning members of the public,” Dr. Blackwell said. “This is a testament to the high regard that clients hold their vets in. We know this respect has to be earned and that we cannot be complacent about this.”

Reaction to the news on RCVS’s Facebook page was mostly positive, though some people decried the title as pretentious or ego-driven.

“Why shouldn’t they have the title of doctor?” one wrote. “For all the species they see day in and day out, for all the ops they do and for all their hard work. Well-deserved title!”

“As a Kiwi vet who had to give up my ‘Dr.’ 10 years ago when I moved to the U.K., I’m delighted to again use the title I earned,” a New Zealand native wrote. “Mr., Mrs., Ms. was such an antiquated, parochial and frankly random thing that made absolutely no sense.”

Consideration of the policy change was a priority of RCVS President Stuart Reid, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ECVPH, who took office in July 2014.

“Whether one regards the decision as correcting a historical anomaly or simply providing greater clarity at home and abroad, there is no doubt that the issue has generated huge interest,” Dr. Reid said. “Yet regardless of whether individual vets choose to use the title, it will not change the profession’s ongoing commitment to the very highest of standards.”

“Doctor” is commonly used by practitioners in the United States. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics states: “Veterinarians should use only the title of the professional degree that was awarded by the school of veterinary medicine where the degree was earned. All veterinarians may use the courtesy titles ‘Doctor’ or ‘Veterinarian.’”

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