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National Doctors Day: Have you thanked your doctors lately?

National Doctors Day is a perfect opportunity to thank all of your doctors for caring for you and your family members. The work they perform is highly stressful, especially now during this devastating outbreak. Despite it all, they are working with precision and accuracy to help save millions of lives.

Anytime we celebrate a profession, in this case National Doctors Day on March 30, it’s always important to remember where and when it all started.

Around 3000 BC, in a civilized Egyptian society, the first doctor known as Sekhet-eanach was thought to “heal the pharaoh’s nostrils.” The Egyptian doctors provided their patients with pills that were made of herbs and minerals rolled with dough and ingested with wine or beer. It was also common for them to prescribe ointments for wound care and use inhaled steam for chest congestion.

Believe it or not, even with modernizations in medicine, all three of these methods are still used and extremely effective!

Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)

Today, when someone mentions “doctor,” most people first think of an MD or DO. Not everyone understands how extensive the schooling is to complete a medical degree. In order to become a medical doctor, one must complete a bachelor’s degree (typically four years), four years of medical school, and a residency program lasting from three to seven years. The DO requires a degree with specific prerequisite courses, followed by a four-year curriculum, then post-graduate training.

Some doctors even go on to complete additional training called a fellowship. Doctors have gained an incredible reputation within their communities through the patients they care for daily.

Due to the success of the profession, many other medical fields have worked to create expansive “doctorate” programs to earn a similar status that you may not be aware of such as physical therapy, nursing and pharmacy.

Modern Doctors (DPT, DNP, PharmD) 

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT): Traditionally, physical therapists graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy (BPT) that could be completed in four years. Then an additional two years was added on, making it a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT). Starting in 2015, one final change was made to the curriculum that made all accredited and developing physical therapist programs in the U.S. a DPT. The current DPT program involves four years of undergraduate, three to four years of physical therapy graduate school with an optional residency or fellowship program.
  • Doctor of Nursing Practitioner (DNP): Traditionally, a nurse could become a Registered Nurse (RN) in two years or obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in four years. After completing a BSN, taking two more years of schooling to earn a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Nurse Practitioner (NP) degree. The curriculum for the DNP builds on traditional master’s programs by providing education in evidence-based practice, quality improvement, and systems leadership.
  • Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD): Traditionally, pharmacists graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy (B.S. Pharm) that could be completed in five years. Since 2003, all new pharmacy graduates are becoming PharmDs with an extra year of school. Today’s PharmD programs involve a minimum of two years of undergraduate work (most complete a bachelor’s), followed by four years of pharmacy school with an optional residency or fellowship program. The extra year from the BS to the PharmD is practical onsite training since the role has evolved more into clinical practice settings than a dispensing role. In my 10-plus years of being a pharmacist, I have seen first-hand the level of trust patients instill in us once they realize we are Doctors of Pharmacy.

Even though you may not call them “doctor” as you may do with your primary care physician, they are still doctors who take an oath to respect each patient and to do no harm. I am excited to see how other fields will emerge with advanced degrees that make these professions one of a kind and more attractive to potential students looking to help transform patients’ lives.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our doctors need our deepest thoughts and support to strategize use of medical supplies, research the virus, protect the weak, and work to invent a cure. While some of our doctors are unable to keep the doors open at their practices, they are showing their resilience by fully using their resources and expertise through telehealth.

They truly deserve our utmost respect and gratitude now for continuing to serve our communities at this difficult time.

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