APA contests proposed AMA resolution on title restriction

In a battle over the use of the terms "doctor," "resident" and "residency" in medical settings, APA's advocacy plays a role in the AMA's rejection of a resolution that would have excluded psychologists

by Legal and Regulatory Affairs Staff

June 18, 2008 — The American Psychological Association sent a letter (PDF, 33 KB) on June 12 to the principal policy-making body of the American Medical Association (AMA) strongly opposing a proposed resolution that the AMA House of Delegates just considered. The proposed resolution (DOC, 28.5 KB) supported restricting the use of "doctor," "resident" and "residency" in medical settings to physicians, dentists and podiatrists.

The APA's letter from President Alan Kazdin, PhD, and Chief Executive Officer Norman Anderson, PhD, discussed psychologists' long history of using the term "doctor" in medical settings and cautioned that applying the restrictions called for in the resolution would confuse patients. The full text of the APA letter is available at the end of this article.

The AMA House did not adopt the proposed resolution. Instead, during their meeting, which concluded today, the delegates adopted a substitute resolution calling on the AMA to: 1) advocate that professionals in a clinical health care setting clearly and accurately identify to patients their qualifications and degree(s) attained and develop model state legislation; and, 2) support state legislation that would make it a felony to misrepresent oneself as a physician. The AMA committee considering the resolution recognized that any individual who has received a terminal degree in his or her area of study has the right to be called "doctor."