Tag Archives: Medical Education

Not All Doctors Are Physicians

A colleague recently sent me a link to the “American College of Cathopathic Physicians” a new organization whose mission “is to protect the professional autonomy and advocate for a full, broad scope of practice for DNPs as a ‘cathopathic physician’ completely equal in every way to our MD and DO counterparts.”

I was, I admit, so stunned by the statement (and confused by its grammatical errors) that I thought the whole thing might be an elaborate joke. It was only after spending some time exploring the site that I realized that it was for real, and a really bad idea.

Lets start with the absurd circular “reasoning” that the group uses to justify labeling DNPs as “physicians.” According to the site (their quotations are unattributed):

A physician is commonly defined as a “doctor who practices medicine” which is “the art of healing” or “promoting, maintaining, or restoring health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease”. Other organizations, such as the federal government, define a physician as a healthcare professional with “the authority to make independent judgments in the examination, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and care of the human body”.

It then goes on to advocate for DNPs to have such authority, which in turn it believes would justify calling DNPs physicians. And of course, once you get to call yourself a physician, why wouldn’t you have full independent authority? After all, that’s what it means to be a physician, right? So, basically, if you call yourself a physician, then you are one.

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Professionalism

Every so often the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is devoted to a single topic. The May 12 edition was devoted to “professionalism and governance” and the articles addressed a range of related subjects from medical education to board certification. I was particularly drawn, for obvious reasons, to the section on “professionalism and employment.”

I think it is fair to say that physicians have often cited their commitment to professionalism as a justification for the high value placed on independent private practice. That is, independence – of insurance companies, corporate overlords or pretty much anybody telling them how to practice – is the only way to assure that they can consistently act in the best interests of their patients.

This way of thinking is now severely challenged.

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