What Do the Abbreviations After a Doctor’s Name Mean?

Updated April 26, 2022
Meanings of DO and MD from the article
    DO vs MD meanings
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Abbreviating the word doctor as “Dr.” makes sense, since doctor begins with a “d” and ends with an “r.” But where does the “MD” come from , and how is that different from “D.O” (or “Ph.d”)? 

"DO" vs. "MD"

The main abbreviations seen after a doctor's name are DO and MD. So, what do they mean?

  • DO is a doctor of osteopathy medicine.
    • Osteopathy is "a system of manual therapeutic techniques aimed at restoring physical function and promoting the body's ability to heal itself, performed by a practitioner who is not a licensed physician."
    • DOs practice alternative medicine and may not be licensed physicians.
  • An MD is a doctor of medicine. 
    • MDs are general doctors that are licensed, like primary physician. They can use medical tools and practices to treat patients.
    • MDs practice allopathic medicine. 

Abbreviations for Medical and Dental Degrees

The abbreviations and acronyms that come after a doctor's name can indicate the type of schooling or training they received or any professional qualifications they hold. Some examples include:

  • AuD - Doctor of Audiology
  • DC - Doctor of Chiropractic
  • DDS - Doctor of Dental Science (or Doctor of Dental Surgery)
  • DMD - Doctor of Dental Medicine (or Doctor of Medical Dentistry)
  • DO or OD - Doctor of Osteopathy Medicine (or ​​Doctor of Optometry)
  • DPM - Doctor of Podiatric Medicine
  • DPT - Doctor of Physical Therapy
  • Dr - Doctor
  • DScPT - Doctor of Science in Physical Therapy
  • DSN - Doctor of Science in Nursing
  • DVM - Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
  • ENT - Ear, nose and throat specialist
  • GP - General Practitioner
  • GYN - Gynecologist
  • LSA - Licensed Surgical Assistant
  • MD - Doctor of Medicine
  • MLA - Medical Laboratory Assistant
  • MP - Medical Psychologist
  • MS - Master of Surgery
  • OB/GYN - Obstetrician and Gynecologist
  • PA - Physician’s Assistant
  • PharmD - Doctor of Pharmacy

Abbreviations for Medical Associations

In addition to degrees and other certifications that doctors may receive, they might also belong to certain professional or medical associations in order to do their job. A doctor with a fellowship means they are dedicated to furthering their education, research or overall contribution to medicine. Examples include:

  • FAAEM - Fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine
  • FAAFP - Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians
  • FACC - Fellow of the American College of Cardiology
  • FACE - Fellow of the American College of Endocrinology
  • FACP - Fellow of the American College of Physicians
  • FACS - Fellow of the American College of Surgeons
  • FAHA - Fellow of the American Heart Association
  • FAPA - Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association
  • FFR - Fellow Faculty of Radiologists
  • FRCPSC - Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
  • MRCOG - Member Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • MRCS - Member Royal College of Surgeons

Abbreviations for Other Degrees and Associations

While most people tend to associate doctors with the medical community, there are many other types of doctors and degrees that aren't necessarily related to medicine at all. For example:

  • DC - Doctor of Chiropractic
  • DD - Doctor of Divinity
  • DDiv - Doctor of Divinity
  • DEd or EdD - Doctor of Education
  • DMin - Doctor of Ministry
  • DPA - Doctor of Public Administration
  • DPH - Doctor of Public Health
  • DPhil or PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
  • DSW - Doctor of Social Work
  • EdD - Doctor of Education
  • JD - Doctor of Jurisprudence
  • PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
  • PsyD - Doctor of Psychology
  • ScD - Doctor of Science
  • SScD - Doctor of Social Science
  • ThD - Doctor of Theology

Should You Add a Period?

It's worth noting that while the abbreviations listed here do not have periods after each letter or set of letters, doing so can be perfectly acceptable under certain circumstances.

For instance, there isn't a real difference between writing MD or M.D. when referring to a doctor of medicine. However, it wouldn't make sense to write G.Y.N. for a gynecologist abbreviation.


Just What the Doctor Ordered

If you need more help deciphering the medical shorthand in your doctor's notes, check out: