Letters after a Name
EDP column by Dr Ketan Dhatariya

“My GP’s stationary always has the letters MRCGP DRCOG after his name. What do these stand for?";

You may know that in the UK, the basic medical degree that is awarded after successfully passing through medical school is the MBBS, or it’s equivalent, MBChB. This stands for Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (the ‘Ch’ bit is from the Latin for surgery, ‘Chirurgia’). During medical school some of the students may have done an ‘intercalated’ Bachelor of Sciences degree and so leave medical school with BSc MBBS after their name.

There are lots of different areas within medicine that a doctor may choose to go into, such as surgery, paediatrics, psychiatry, obstetrics, general practice, and so on. Currently it is usual for a doctor to choose what broad area they want to go into after the first year after qualification. So they may opt for general practice, for example. This usually means that they have to do another three years of specialist training in general practice. During that time, they are expected to take another exam – the Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners (MRCGP). They may also, along the way take other exams, like the Diploma of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (DRCOG).

Each speciality has its own Royal College and the aim is to become a ‘Member’ or ‘Fellow’ of the college that your speciality is in, thus they may have some letters after their name starting with ‘M’ or ‘F’.

Beyond these there are other letters that you may find. Often, hospital doctors will have the letters MD after them. Unlike the United States, where the basic medical degree is called an MD (Doctor of Medicine), in the UK the MD represents passing a postgraduate exam taken after 2 or 3 years of research. This research is usually patient related – or ‘clinical’, whereas a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) is often ‘basic’ research. This means that the work done often does not involve patients, but highly specialised areas of e.g. cell physiology. Other examples of degrees that doctors can do include a BSc or MSc - Bachelor or Master of Science, similar to other science courses.

Having lots of letters after the name means that the person concerned has sat (and passed!) lots of exams.