Not That Kind of Doctor

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
'"Dangit, Jim, I'm an astronomer, not a doctor! I mean, I am a doctor, but not that kind of doctor. I have a doctorate, it's not the same thing. You can't help people with a doctorate; you just sit there and you're useless!"

If someone in TV-land is referred to as "the doctor", it means they're a medical doctor.[1] It might not be explicitly mentioned, possibly even outright denied, but anyone called the doctor seems to be able to deliver any and all surgical operations and medical Techno Babble required by the plot. There are no exceptions (well, other than him). All those other guys who've got doctorates in science, law and philosophy are helpfully distinguished from real doctors with vaguely-academic titles like "professor", if they're even awarded one at all.

"Not That Kind of Doctor" as a trope stems from a modern convention: in the past, "Doctor" had a purely academic connotation — the word itself derives from the Latin doctor, meaning "teacher". At some point, the word (in English, at least) began to shift from being the title of a learned person or a person with a doctorate, to meaning the same as "physician". Originally, the M.D. was a doctorate in medicine, but in some places, like the US and Canada, it became the first professional degree. (In the UK and Ireland, an MB ChB—bachelor of medicine & surgery—are the first undergraduate degrees; holders are addressed as "Doctor" regardless. While Surgeons—which require a graduate degree, equivalent to a North American MD in length of education—are only addressed as Mr, Mrs, or Miss in a form of reverse snobbery.[2]) It is easy to see how the term "doctor" was slowly divorced from its academic roots. This has gone so far that it is common for it to be thought that "real" doctors are physicians... which brings us to this trope. And MD Envy to boot.

Certain professions blur the line. A psychiatrist or forensic pathologist will necessarily have a medical doctorate, but their main occupation isn't taking care of people's cuts and sniffles. If they're suddenly forced to act like that kind of doctor—like, say, they're on hand when someone gets hit by a car—expect them to act awkward and unsure before they save the day.

Not to be confused with Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate. See also Open-Heart Dentistry and Omnidisciplinary Scientist. Compare All Monks Know Kung Fu (which is, basically, Not That Kind Of Monk) and Not That Kind of Mage, where someone good at one form of wizardry is unskilled at another. Contrast with Super Doc, when the Doctor can heal you no matter what his field is.

Note that this trope holds water only in certain languages, such as English; other languages were smart enough to create different words to distinguish between MDs and PhDs. An example would be Chinese, where the medical professionals are addressed as [Surname] yīshēng while academics get [Surname] bóshì.

Examples of Not That Kind of Doctor include:

Doctors who really do practice medicine

Anime and Manga

  • Dr. Shiouji from Excel Saga specifically states that out of his many doctorates none are in medicine, but it doesn't matter that much in the end as he's also an Omnidisciplinary Scientist who knows all the medical terminology and has previously dissected Iwata's dead body to translocate his brain into a mechanical vessel.
    • Dr. Kabapu has never said what kind of doctor he is either.
  • Reversed in Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, when Kafuka Fuura walks into the Itoshiki Clinic for a check-up and initially sees Dr. Mikoto Itoshiki, whom she initially confuses for his younger brother/her teacher Nozomu.

Note: In Japanese, sensei means "professor" or "physician". Compare with the English term "doctor".
Kafuka: Sensei!
Dr. Itoshiki: Yes.
Kafuka: No, I mean, Sensei!
Dr. Itoshiki: Yes?
Kafuka: I mean, Itoshiki-sensei.
Dr. Itoshiki: Yes.

  • One Piece:
    • Chopper's mentor Dr. Hiriluk at least claimed to be that kind of doctor; whether he had a legitimate degree is questionable, as most folks on Drum Island considered him a charlatan and quack. His skills were certainly good enough to save Chopper's life when they first met.
    • Dr. Vegepunk may or may not be that kind of doctor, as he is a genius in several fields, some of them at least related to medicine.

Comic Books

  • In The DCU, Kimiyo Hoshi (AKA Dr. Light) started out as an astrophysicist; she was later shown as That Kind of Doctor, working in a hospital and healing a fellow hero, and marking her eventual upgrade to Omnidisciplinary Scientist.
  • Doctor Strange, from the Marvel Universe, is a trained (though not currently practicing) surgeon. On the occasions when he does show his medical chops, he tends to be better and more versatile than a specialist forty years out of practice should be.
    • His parody in Fanhunter, Dr. X-Traño (a mix between a real wizard and a cosplayer Marvel geek), is only honoris causa[3] of something else by Miskatonic University. His allies believed X-Traño to be an M.D. like Strange; he was forced to tell the truth when he was asked to heal an ally.
  • Lampshade Hanging in Justice Society of America, when Black Canary is surprised that Dr Mid-Nite is that kind of doctor, since most supers who call themselves "Dr" aren't.
  • Bruce Wayne's deceased father, Dr. Thomas Wayne, was that kind of doctor.
  • X-Men:
    • Zigzagged with Dr. Moira MacTaggert. Her specialties seem to be biochemistry and genetics, and she even earned a Nobel Prize for the latter, so one can assume she has degrees in both. While she could likely treat an injury or disease easily, whether she could legally work as a physician isn't clear.
    • Genius Bruiser Dr. Henry McCoy (aka the Beast) is that kind of doctor and holds five other doctorates.


  • In the movie Paradise Road, Dr. Verstak (Frances McDormand) practices medicine on the inmates of the prison camp, making her non-expendable. Near the end of the movie, she admits that she isn't an MD, but instead has a doctorate in philosophy.
  • Dr. Evil, of course, went to Evil Medical School, after spy school with Austin and Number Two.
    • A series of French practice schoolbooks has Dr. Evil as a plastic surgeon and Mini-Me as his secretary.
  • The Abominable Dr. Phibes has two doctorates. One is in theology, and the other in acoustics.
  • Dracula features Abraham Van Helsing, M.D., D.Ph., D.Litt., etc, as seen in The Brides of Dracula (1960)
    • The satire film Dracula: Dead and Loving It showed Helsing as a medical professor demonstrating how to perform an autopsy, causing all of his students to faint.
  • City Slickers has a scene with two doctors needing to attend to an injured man because they're the only people in the group with first-aid training. The problem is that first-aid is all they can provide for him—he needs a surgeon, but they're dentists.

What're we going to do, give him a cleaning?!

  • In the movie 1776, Doctor Lyman Hall is taken aside by the seriously ill Caesar Rodney, who asks him a simple question:

Rodney: Sir may I ask of you, are you a Doctor of Medicine, or of Divinity?[4]
Hall: Both, sir. Which one might be of use?
Rodney: The former most assuredly, then we shall see about the latter.

  • In Clue, Professor Plum, a psychiatrist, is called upon to determine what killed Mr. Boddy and immediately protests, "I am not a forensic expert!"
  • Inverted in The Santa Clause: When people refer to Neil as a doctor, Scott sarcastically replies "He's not a doctor, he's a psychiatrist."
  • In The Hangover, Stu is a dentist, a fact that everyone is quick to remind him of whenever he mentions his doctorate.


  • Doctor Lao from The Circus of Doctor Lao is definitely not that kind of doctor.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Doctor Watson is that kind of doctor, if only to underline how much above even medical doctors Holmes is cognitively. That said, when faking an illness to lure out his would-be murderer, Holmes is forced to keep Watson at a distance by claiming risk of infection, but really because he's afraid Watson's medical knowledge would easily penetrate the disguise; Holmes's own medical insight is mostly limited to forensics, criminal and otherwise.
  • In Beneath The Surface by Gary Crew, Spiro introduces himself as 'Doctor Spiro Trotter' and has to clarify that he isn't a medical doctor in response to the hotel receptionist repeatedly telling him that nobody's been sick for years.
  • The protagonist of Youth in Sexual Ecstasy after acquiring an STD, looks for a doctor to get treated, he finds the card of a specialist in "sexual dysfunctions" (sex therapist) and goes to him to get treated, luckily for him the doctor already had a background on medicine and biology; The doctor later points out what his specialization really means.
  • In the original The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Henry Jekyll may or may not be that kind of doctor; Stevenson actually doesn't specify whether or not his doctorate is in medicine, although given his expertise in chemistry, it is possible. Some adaptations have indeed depicted him as running a private practice, or being retired from one.
  • Dr. Abraham Van Helsing in the original Dracula is that kind of doctor (and a professor of medicine), and not a vampire hunter, as adaptations often turn him into; he's just smart enough to know enough about them to improvise.
  • The protagonist of Gulliver's Travels is that kind of doctor; in fact, the full title of the book was originally Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships. However, the story doesn't include any situation where his medical skills are needed.

Live-Action TV

  • Mohinder Suresh of Heroes has remarkable know-how in the medical arts despite being a geneticist.
    • He even mentions how he's not a medical doctor at least twice -- once in Volume 1 when Thompson asks him to figure out what's wrong with Molly, and in Volume 4 when he's brought to see a bullet-riddled Daphne.
  • Stargate Verse: Dr. Beckett, Dr. Frasier and Dr. Keller]] are all That Kind Of Doctor. Actually two of them were, both being somewhat dead. And don't forget Dr. Lam, even if the writers did. Dr. Jackson and Dr. Lee, however, are Not That Kind Of Doctor. Jackson is rarely even referred to as "doctor" except when he's being introduced to someone.
    • This is played for laughs in one episode. A man who has captured SG-1 was injured, and asks Daniel to patch him up. Daniel explains that he doesn't know how.

Daniel: I'm an archaeologist.
Bounty Hunter: But you're also a doctor.
Daniel: ...of archaeology.

  • Major Carter isn't that kind of doctor either, but no one has ever thought she was... except in "Moebius", when she introduces herself to Dr. Jackson.

JACKSON (offering his hand for her to shake): Doctor Daniel Jackson.
CARTER (shaking his hand): Doctor Samantha Carter.
JACKSON: Oh! Uh, Ph.D.
CARTER: Oh, me too.

  • In "Harmony", a girl believes that Dr. Mckay should know something about, well, being a doctor. His responce is similar to Jackson's above.
  • Star Trek: Doctors McCoy, Crusher, Pulaski, Bashir, Placeholder, and Phlox are definitely that kind of doctor. To emphasize the Mildly Military nature of Starfleet, is is apparently not appropriate to address them by their rank (if any). Further, as a psychiatrist, Deanna Troi is likely a Doctor as well, sort of that kind.
    • Troi's title is Counselor, meaning she probably filled the role of a guidance counselor of sorts to the crew (more of a psychologist's job, and while they are doctors in the Ph.D. sense, her empathic nature helped her more than her training). Also, the official medical doctors all were required to learn multiple alien anatomies as well as forensics and other analysis. McCoy is pretty dependent on his lab in the original, but in space the doctors have to be able to cope with an emergency. After all, Klingon anatomy has double- or triple-redundancies to keep them fighting and Vulcans have their heart in their abdominal cavity, so why risk being underprepared?
    • All of these doctors (aside from Phlox, who's not an actual member of Starfleet, and Voyager's Doctor, who's a hologram) do have ranks, designated on their uniforms. McCoy was a Lt. Commander, for example. Troi, who does not wear a uniform, held the rank of Lt. Commander for most of the show and got a Hand Wave of not wanting to intimidate her clients because she out-ranked them. (Granted, what she was wearing instead was probably off-putting in other ways...) Crusher was a Commander. Bashir was a Lieutenant.
  • In M*A*S*H, Hawkeye, Trapper, Frank, Henry, B.J., Charles, and Colonel Potter—pretty much all the male officers, not counting occasional visitors—were all that kind of doctor. Dr. Sidney Freedman is a psychiatrist, and therefore, is that kind of doctor, but it's not his occupation. In a crisis he's forced to help out in the O.R., over his protestations that "medical school was a long time ago."
  • The Doctor of Doctor Who has medical knowledge and has used it to heal people on occasion, but science is his forte and "Doctor" part of his assumed identity anyway. In The Moonbase, he claims to have received a medical degree... under Lister on 19th century Earth. In any case, he's had centuries to come by plenty of knowledge honestly.
    • His being Not That Kind of Doctor is Lampshaded in Utopia when a guard tells Dr Yana that a doctor "of everything" had just arrived.
    • In the episode "A Good Man Goes To War", the character Lorna knows he must be a great warrior because "Why else would he be called that?" Turns out that in her language, 'Doctor' means 'Mighty Warrior'. The irony is that the Doctor has become so feared in reputation, that he created the term. In a way, he is that kind of Doctor.
    • Liz Shaw is that kind of doctor, among other things. Harry Sullivan's doctorate is strictly medical.
      • In "The Ark In Space", the Doctor claims his Doctorate is purely honorary, and Harry (who's a naval surgeon) is "only qualified to work on sailors".
    • Martha Jones eventually became that sort of doctor. Her (temporary) fiancé Tom Milligan is also one.
  • In Torchwood, Doctor Owen Harper is that kind of doctor.
  • Dr. Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap straddles the line; while still amnesiac he recalls how to halt a premature labor, and then balks when Al tells him to do something requiring another degree; turns out medicine is just one of the six doctorates he holds.
  • The vets in All Creatures Great and Small sometimes have clients who mistake them for traditional doctors, often under embarrassing circumstances. Tristan once went on a house-call to an infertile couple under the mistaken belief that he was going to artificially inseminate their cow. Another time a woman turned up at the surgery asking for confirmation of her pregnancy and Siegfried pretended to comply with her wishes in order to freak out Tristan and James.
  • During one episode of Leverage" ("The Rashomon Job"), Sophie runs into Dr. Wes Abernathy. She asks what his PhD is in, and he announces that he is a surgeon.
  • Inverted in Season 17 of The Amazing Race when, after being U-Turned, Chad started taunting Nat at the Roadblock. Though really, it might have just been because Chad didn't know the difference between an MD and a PhD.

Chad: Nat you should be able to get this easy. How's that PhD helping you?
Nat (in a voice over): For the record, I have an MD, I do not have a PhD.

  • One episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun had Vicki asking Dr. Albright if she would deliver her (alien) baby. Mary tries to explain that she isn't that kind of doctor, she just has a doctorate in anthropology, but Vicki doesn't understand several of the words she uses and takes it as Mary just blowing her off because of the gap in their social classes, education, basic hygiene, etc...
    • "I'm an anthropologist." "Is that like, the butt?" Vicki confused both "anthro" or "anthropology" with "anterior", but also "anterior" with "posterior".
  • An episode of Sanctuary has Will and Abby kidnapped by a gang seeking medical aid for their boss, who was, of course, attacked by an abnormal. They go through about a half a minute of trying to convince said crooks that they are psychologists, which they are. It does not work.

Abby: Sigmund & Anna Freud, right here.

  • Played with on Criminal Minds in Season Five, with Doctor Reid (who possesses three Ph.D.s but no medical training) after he was shot. Hotch makes him stay behind with Garcia, the team's analyst.

Hotch: You told me you were cleared to travel. You lied.
Reid: No, I didn't. I am a doctor, so technically it wasn't a lie.
Garcia: What was it, then?
Reid: Um...Second opinion.
Garcia: You're my bitch now.

  • The CSI franchise has two ex-doctors. CSI had Dr. Ray Langston and CSI: NY has Dr. Sheldon Hawkes. Both have ended up giving emergency care a time or two. Hawkes even helps with a bicycle first aid team in the park. Of course, the medical examiners (Robbins, Hammerbeck) are also doctors, but don't practice medicine.
    • Doc Robbins has occasionally been shown to do things medically related - while Grissom was losing his hearing, Doc Robbins gave him regular check-ups to make sure Grissom was attending to his health.
  • Lampshaded, played with and kicked to death in Top Gear, of all programmes. Jeremy revealed that he had obtained a cheaper quote for insurance because he called himself 'Doctor', rather than a journalist - the two pay vastly different rates of Car Insurance. He ignored the other two's protestations that HONOURARY doctorates don't count.
  • Dr. Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show is that kind of doctor (albeit a specialist, specifically an obstetrician). One rather hilarious scene in an episode was where Rudy hurt her leg, and cried to Cliff that she wanted to see a doctor. Cliff had to remind her that he was a doctor. Making it even funnier, when Clair came home and looked at it, she panicked a little and exclaimed that they had to call a doctor, again forgetting that Cliff, who was right next to her, was a doctor.
  • Joan Watson of Elementary was a MD and a surgeon, but after making a mistake that cost a patient his life she gave up medicine and no longer uses the title doctor.

Video Games

  • Dr. Zev Cohen from Mass Effect: "I am a doctor but not the doctor. My specialty is microbiology. Not first aid."
  • Dr. Mario appeared to be that kind of doctor.

Web Comics

  • Dr. McNinja:
    • When he's not adventuring, he's quite a successful medical doctor, even knowing of rare diseases like Paul Bunyan's Disease. At the very least, he knows general medicine and dentistry.
      • Paul Bunyan's disease seems not to be that rare in the setting given there are a group of people who hunt and kill Paul Bunyan sufferers to use their stuffed bodies as giant theme park mascots.
  • Last Res0rt has Dr. Qin Xu, who chose to go into medicine after becoming a vampire.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, Dr. Bunnigus protests that she's not a psychiatrist, to no effect.
  • Almost all the Sparks in Girl Genius are that kind of doctor. Except for Agatha, because they wouldn't let her take the tests.

Western Animation

  • In Kim Possible, both of Kim's parents have doctorates. Her Mother's is indeed an M.D. (she's a brain surgeon), but her father's isn't (he's a rocket scientist). This results in visitors (at least Ron Stoppable) usually addressing them as Mr. Dr. P and Mrs. Dr. P, respectively. To not call them doctor would be disrespectful, but to just call them doctor would be confusing.
  • In Animaniacs, Dr. Otto Scratchnsniff ("the Studio Shrink") is a psychiatrist, meaning he's technically that kind of doctor, although he doesn't use those skills anymore. Possibly why he has Ms. Hello Nurse as a secretary.

Real Life

  • The old joke about people with doctorate degrees. "So you're a doctor?" "Yes, but not the kind that will do you any good."
    • Alternately: "Not the kind with any money."

Other kinds of doctors

Comic Books

  • Doctor Doom dropped out of school after his Freak Lab Accident and then proceeded to learn magic and take over a country. He never actually finished his doctorate. No one would argue that he doesn't deserve one, but he simply never finished the paperwork. Ordering the University of Latvaria to give him a degree (what the fanon suggests he did) doesn't count, even though the thesis defense would have been...interesting.
  • Spider-Man's foe Dr. Octopus has a doctorate in nuclear physics.
    • Lampshaded in Secret Wars: Volcana asks Doctor Octopus to tend to the severely wounded Molecule Man; Octopus replies that his doctorate is in nuclear physics, not medicine, but he'll see what he can do...
      • Conversely, every doctorate brings full knowledge of robotics, including the Entomology course (see Henry Pym).
    • Also appears in Ultimate Spiderman. Peter is injured in a fight and goes to Dr Connors for help. Although he isn't an MD, as he is quick to point out, he is persuaded to treat the wound anyway.
  • Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja features Irving Yagyu, DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery). He's called "the ninja dentist" because that's exactly what he is...
  • The original Doctor Fate was a doctor of archaeology. Most of the subsequent Doctors Fate weren't doctors at all, they'd just inherited the name. The current[when?] version is a psychoanalyst, though.
  • According to the fact file at the back of the Batman the Brave And The Bold comic, even though Dr. Cyber is an Omnidisciplinary Scientist, her actual doctorate is in literature.
  • One-shot Justice League foe Dr. Julian September is a physicist. He is not mistaken for a doctor of medicine, but an official who don't want to reapprove of his funding makes a quip about September fixing his jeep, since he works in quantum mechanics. Shortly after, Dr September's work first paid off, when the official was struck by lightning before he could sign the paper that would have stopped September's work.
  • Brother Voodoo (Dr. Jericho Drumm) is a psychologist. Some readers assumed when they saw him go by 'Doctor Voodoo' that the title had come along with the office of Sorcerer Supreme, which he inherited from Doctor Strange.
  • Kitty Pryde (from X-Men); after graduating from the Robert Heinlein University, she holds doctorates in Engineering and Astrophysics.
  • Dr. Pamela Isley (aka Poison Ivy) in post-crisis Batman continuity, her PhD is in botany. In some cases though, she can use her expertise in chemistry to heal or treat humans, going so far as to cure Nora Fries in the animated Harley Quinn.

Fan Works

  • There are several Liberty's Kids fanfics where the author has mistaken Dr. Benjamin Franklin as a medical doctor. He had an honorary doctorate in law and science.
  • In the Bleach fanfic Project Tatterdemalion, we have Dr. Yoruichi Shihouin (ecologist), Dr. Masaki Shiba (biology), Dr. Isshin Shiba (might technically be a medical doctor, but hasn't worked on anything but mice in years, so comes down to biology), Dr. Tessai Tsukabishi (physics), and Dr. Kisuke Urahara (any number of things). All research scientists- although they do manage to create a fast-and-dirty vaccine against The Virus. No medical doctors in the original group (although they do have a nurse and a paramedic). In the sequel, when (medical) Dr. Retsu Unohana arrives to treat the nurse's injuries, Yoruichi introduces herself with her specialty, to keep things clear.


  • Dr. Delbert Doppler from Treasure Planet, as quoted above.
  • Subverted somewhat in the Indiana Jones movies. Indiana was freqently referred to as "Dr. Jones" (especially by the evil people) but no one ever accused him of being a medical doctor.
  • Dr. Cockroach from Monsters vs. Aliens. It is never made clear what his field is. What we do know is that his PhD was in dance!
  • Dr. Charles B. Pierce from Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues is mistaken for a medical doctor when asked to treat the mountain man Crenshaw's captive baby Boggy Creek Creature. Turns out Dr. Pierce only has a doctorate in Boggy Creek Studies.
  • 12 Monkeys: Kathryn Railly is a psychologist. While she does spend a majority of the movie providing therapy for Cole and is never mistaken for a medical doctor, there is one scene in which she removes a bullet from him and assures him that she is qualified to do so. "I am a doctor".
    • This might be a bit of Fridge Brilliance: The film is set in a psychiatric hospital, and the doctors there tend to be psychiatrists, rather than psychologists. Psychiatrists really are that kind of doctor, having been to medical school, and it's not too much of a stretch that Railly would know how to do simple surgery. (The fact that she removed the bullet at all is the writers' fault.)
  • The upstairs neighbor in Barefoot in the Park.

"It's alright honey. He's a doctor."
"And what are you a doctor of?"

  • Buck Laughlin uses this for some Witty Banter in Best in Show while talking to Dr. Millbank, president of the Mayflower Kennel Club.


  • In Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is often referred to as "the Doctor" (not that Doctor, mind you). He's actually a doctor of law, though he's more well-known for his arithmetickal studies than his legal studies. In addition, Daniel Waterhouse, an Omnidisciplinary Scientist, is referred to as "Dr. Daniel Waterhouse" later in his life. Inverting the trope, physicians are always referred to as "physicians", never doctors; even surgeons were alternately called "chirurgeons" and "barber-surgeons", never "doctors". Indeed, Dr. Waterhouse himself expresses strong contempt for physicians, treating them as if they were snake-oil salesmen (and given the state of 17th/18th-century medicine, that's exactly what they were).
  • In Terry Pratchett's first Discworld novel The Colour of Magic, there's a moment where we get a glimpse of an alternate universe where Twoflower and Rincewind are travelling on a plane, when "Zweiblumen" collapses. Someone asks "Rjinswand" to help since he's a Doctor, but Rjinswand points out that he would only be any help if Zweiblumen were some sort of nuclear reactor.
  • A scene in one of the Adrian Mole books has Pandora jumping into a taxi with the words "I'm a doctor and this is an emergency!" She doesn't mention she's a doctor of philosophy.

Live-Action TV

  • Parodied regularly in The Colbert Report: after getting his Doctorate of Fine Arts from Knox College, Stephen immediately started assuming that he could perform operations. He even started a recurring segment called "Cheating Death, with Dr. Stephen T Colbert, DFA".
    • Being a doctor of fine arts, he's only qualified to do operations on paintings.
  • In Stargate SG-1, a Humanoid Alien Bounty Hunter assumes Jackson is that kind of doctor and the following conversation occurs:

Aris Boch: Dr. Jackson, if you don't mind treating my wound.
Dr. Jackson: I'm an archaeologist.
Aris Boch: I know, but you're also a doctor.
Dr. Jackson: ...of archaeology.

    • Sam Carter is an astrophysicist, but don't call her "Doctor", as we learn in "Children of the Gods". It is appropriate to refer to a person by their rank, not their salutation. "Call me 'Captain', not 'Doctor'." (Nowadays you call her "Colonel" or "ma'am").
      • She then proceeds to introduce herself to Dr. Jackson as "Doctor". To which O'Neill quips, "I thought you wanted to be called 'Captain'."
      • She is referred to as "Doctor" in parallel universes where she did not enter the military.
    • Another episode has Carter, O'Neil, and Jackson step out of the Stargate to find a woman in labor. After Jackson says he's Not That Kind of Doctor, O'Neil and Daniel look at Carter.

Carter: Why are you looking at me?

  • Dr. Rodney McKay of Stargate Atlantis is most certainly Not That Kind of Doctor - he's an astrophysicist, and considers medicine to be no more scientific than voodoo, as pointed out in "Search and Rescue", where he has to deliver Teyla's baby.
  • Likewise, in part one of the season 5 mid-season two-parter, Daniel Jackson outright states "I'm not that kind of doctor." after he and McKay are ordered by the new Big Bad to get an incredibly sophisticated machine working.
    • While Jackson does state the trope title verbatim, in this instance he's being confused with another type of Not That Kind of Doctor, not a physician.
  • Dr. Ross Geller of Friends has that title on the basis of a PhD in paleontology.
    • One time, when the gang was at a hospital:

Ross: I'm Doctor Ross Geller.
Rachel: Ross, stop it. That actually means something here.

  • Dr. Temperance 'Bones' Brennan of Bones is an anthropologist, and she is quick to correct anyone who refers to her as anything but Dr. Brennan.
    • Though her boss, Dr. Camille "Cam" Saroyan, is a forensic pathologist—and, thus, is that kind of doctor. (Though that isn't her day job.)
    • In one episode, when Brennan is introduced as Doctor Brennan to a physician, he immediately asks "M.D.?", to which she replies "Ph.D". The physician then makes a snide remark about academics, which is rather galling considering an academic doctorate is often harder, and almost always requires more time to obtain than a medical one.
      • In addition, physicians couldn't even become physicians without Ph.D-holding professors (Biology, Chemistry, and/or Physics knowledge needed for MCATs/Med school)
  • Dr. Mary Albright from 3rd Rock from the Sun has a PhD. in Anthropology, but Viki Dubchek, the white trash woman who's the daughter of the Solomon's landlady and Harry's on-and-off GF, thinks she's a medical doctor. The gag actually carries to the point where Viki asks Mary to deliver her baby, and ignores Mary's outright statements of "I'm Not That Kind of Doctor", believing that Mary doesn't want to do it because she doesn't have medical insurance.
  • CSI: Dr. Gil Grissom is a PhD not an MD as he is quick to remind someone who asks him how to treat an animal bite. Although, as an entomologist, he's pretty good with bug bites.
  • There was an episode of Lost in Space when aliens mistook Dr Smith for a medical doctor, despite his protests otherwise. Of course, he was originally a medical doctor, but then the writers just changed him to a Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate.
  • Used in, of all places, Growing Pains where Dr. Seaver has to help a young girl during her Born in an Elevator moment. When she hears his title he admits that he is a Psychiatrist, not a Medical Doctor, but assures her that he is still trained in basic medicine.
  • Aversion: Dr. Frasier Crane and his brother Niles are both That Kind Of Doctor, despite frequently (and amusingly) being mistaken for Not. Possibly a borderline case since psychiatrists (MDs who complete residencies and board certification in mental illness) are commonly conflated with non-MD-holding mental health professionals such as psychologists and social workers.
    • It doesn't help that Frasier and Niles are usually seen helping people with personal drama, bad habits, and relationship issues, which is, usually, a councilor or social worker's job. Frasier uses his Ivy-league education to feed his minor celebrity while Niles seems to care more about maintaining his lifestyle and social status. The joke may be that no one takes Psychiatry seriously, or that nobody takes them seriously because they're more concerned with money and reputation than helping people with serious mental illness.
    • Lampshaded in one episode of Cheers , where Frasier looks at a bar patron's injured leg and tells him how to treat it, then turns to Lilith and says, "See? I could have been a 'real doctor'!"
  • Comes up in the occasional joke about Criminal Minds‍'‍ Dr. Reid.

Reid: (poking at a mutilated corpse with excited interest) Did you know that originally birthday candles were intended to protect the cake's recipients from evil spirits, so much so that the Church condemned birthday celebrations as a pagan ritual?
Cop: (after a long pause) What kind of doctor did you say you were?

  • In The West Wing, Josiah Bartlett is a Doctor of Economics. Of course, he also has another title he prefers to be addressed by throughout the series. It does, however, give him a minor moment of awesome when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court—not a fan of his—snidely refers to him as "Mr. Bartlett".
    • His wife, Abby, is That Kind Of Doctor. However, she loses her license to practice throughout the remainder of his term once her role in his keeping his multiple sclerosis from the American people was revealed.
    • Also shows up in one of the show's Crowning Moments Of Awesome, where President Bartlett tears a conservative radio personality to shreds. At the beginning of their conversation, he asks her what exactly her doctorate is in (it's English literature).
  • Mad Men: Dr Faye Miller is not that kind of doctor, but her father has a heart condition so she knows the symptoms.
  • The Big Bang Theory has most of the main and recurring characters have Doctorates in physics, with others in microbiology and neurobiology. The character Howard has a Masters in Engineering, which leads to plenty of jokes at his expense for not being a doctor. Of course there are a few occasions where people mistake their title as being medical doctors: "A doctor doctor or a you kind of doctor?"
  • Troy gets stuck on this Community episode English as a Second Language when introduced to their substitute teacher.

Troy: Why is she teaching Spanish? Go cure something!

  • Doctor Who: In addition to the title character, River Song is a doctor (and, someday, Professor) of archaeology.

Rory: (after watching her curb-stomp homicidal aliens) So...what kind of doctor are you?
River: Archaeology. (shoots the last one standing without looking) Love a tomb.

  • Tommy Oliver picked up a doctorate in paleontology at some point between Turbo and Dino Thunder. Parodied a couple of seasons later.

Kira: Doctor O. would have loved to see that.
Adam: You know, I still can't believe he's a doctor.


  • In Cabin Pressure, a passenger gets a heart attack on an airplane. Whilst trying to decide whether to divert or not, the pilots notice there's a doctor on board and start requesting ever more urgently that any person with medical training come to the flight deck. As noone comes, they start speaking of a "hypothetical doctor" with a hypothetical sandy mustache hypothetically sitting in the seventh row. As the man eventually comes, he advises a bridge, because a tunnel's out of the question...and really his Ph.D.'s in engineering.
  • Dan Coffey hosts a show called Ask Dr. Science (a Spin-Off from Duck's Breath Mystery Theater), justifying it because, although "not a real doctor," he "has a Masters Degree ... in Science!"



  • Advertisements for the "Doctor Dreadful" line of toys feature a goofy Mad Scientist named, well, Doctor Dreadful. The line includes the "Doctor Dreadful MD" toys, where the character claims the "MD" stands for "Monster Doctor"; in one commercial, he produces a sheepskin to prove he is, indeed, a licensed Monster Doctor.

Video Games

  • In the main Mega Man timeline (and nearly all fan works), being a "Doctor" doesn't invariably mean you're a medical doctor...instead, it invariably means you build robots. ::sigh::
    • Notably, it means you build robots even if you have a doctorate in something else. Dr. Cain, for instance, has a background in archaeology and botany, and still invented reploids.
  • Dr. Loboto from Psychonauts, as quoted above. Of course, not knowing jack about brain surgery doesn't necessarily stop him from performing it...
    • He is a dentist, however. Whether or not he actually has a degree is debatable.
  • Dr. Gordon Freeman, though he has yet to be mistaken for a medical doctor.
    • Oddly enough, he has been mistaken for a physicist somehow.
      • Possibly justified as anyone who can routinely and effectively utilize a standard medical kit to treat radiation burns, poisonous bug bites, extraterrestrial bug bites, broken bones, bullet wounds, and a mild cough would probably require at least an M.D.
  • In My Sims Agents, when Dr. F introduces himself as such, Buddy asks if he can assume he's not a medical doctor. Indeed he can! Alexa clarifies that his degrees are in robotonomy and robotology.
  • Lots of characters in Mass Effect, including but not limited to:
    • Dr. Liara T'Soni (archaeology)
    • Dr. Rana Thanoptis (neuroscience)
    • Dr. Saleon (genetics, possibly transplant medicine - but then he was a Mad Scientist anyway)
    • Dr. Mordin Solus (genetics, biochemistry - though he does run a clinic). He's also a Professor.
    • Dr. Okeer (genetics)
      • One of these creates an odd inversion of Not That Kind of Doctor. During the suicide mission, Mordin is a candidate for the Tech Specialist position. Try to use him in that regard, however, and he's guaranteed to die. I'm a doctor, not a hacker.
  • It was revealed in Poker Night At the Inventory that The Heavy has a doctorate in Russian Literature.
    • The Engineer has eleven "hard science" doctorates.
    • Hilariously inverted with the Medic, who doesn't have any degree (at least not anymore).
  • Sonic the Hedgehog has Doctor Eggman Robotnik. We never find out what his doctorate is in, but it's probably some kind of physics or engineering degree, if his robots are anything to go by.
    • Considering his studies on Sealed Evil in a Can, he also may have some kind of ancient history degree.

Web Comics

  • In Last Res0rt, Dr. Daisy Archanis is a roboticist of some kind.
  • PHD is a Webcomic about Grad Students who are studying to become Doctors. Also, their Guide Professors and one main character are Doctors too. But no one is a Physician or even a Physician Student.
  • "Doc" from The Whiteboard isn't actually one, in spite of his nickname, but it beats having the ER staff laugh at you again.
  • Schlock Mercenary toys with this when they land on an uncharted planet. After Tagon gets unexpectedly eaten by a sea-going predator (which he shoots his way out of) he calls in Kevyn and Bunnigus for professional opinions. Kevyn is an engineer. Bunnigus is a medic. They wind up calling in the chef instead.

Chvorth'q: I think we're gonna need more salt.

Web Original

  • In Freeman's Mind, Gordon Freeman, upon seeing the dead scientist just outside the test chamber: "Oh hell. Is that guy dead? Dammit, I'm a doctor not a... normal doctor!"

Western Animation

  • Dr. Venture from The Venture Bros is usually called "Doctor Venture", even though he dropped out of school after his father died.
    • Dr. Orpheus (whose official credentials are a major in Communication with a minor in Women's Studies from a community college yet claims to have received his doctorate from "a higher power") is the only character to always call Dr. Venture "Mr. Venture." The causes and implications of this are unknown.
    • The only character known for certain to have a real doctorate is Jonas Jr., who earned two of them only a few months after escaping from Dr. Venture's bowels.
      • It's been implied that Billy may be an actual doctorate and possibly even That Kind of Doctor; he mentions that he is a "neurogeneticist" and while he admits that this is not an area with much hands-on applicability, he's still apparently the gang's go-to guy for medical help and we've seen him perform surgery several times.
        • He doesn't legally have a doctorate until Season 4, where he gets a forged one via Monstroso's connections.
    • After The Monarch has a severe allergic reaction to a gourmet meal, his wife Dr. Mrs. The Monarch tells him she can't help, as she's not a doctor. When he asks why he called her Dr. Girlfriend during the years when they dated, she clarifies that she's "not that kind of doctor", although it's not clear what kind of doctor she might be.
      • She mentions she's a physicist in a fourth season episode when tracking Captain Sunshine.
  • Drs. Baxter Stockman and Chaplin from the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series are often referred to by their titles; despite both being Omnidisciplinary Scientists neither has shown any indication of even dabbling in medicine.
  • Similar to her parents, in the previous section, Kim Possible has Dr. Drakken. His however is a Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate since he "let himself out" of higher education before graduating.
  • Batman the Brave And The Bold:

Aquaman: What kind of medicine shall we prescribe, doc?
The Atom: You don't know what kind of a doctor I am, do you?
Aquaman: A hero doctor, through and through!
The Atom: ...a physicist.

  • Family Guy: When the Griffin family starts working with Dr. Diddy at his record label, Chris asks Diddy if he could perform surgery on himself in the event he got shot. Whereupon Dr. Diddy calmly replies that his doctorate is in optometry.
  • In Booster Gold's episode of Justice League Unlimited, he comes across a woman giving birth and tries to pass responsibility to Doctor Simmons, who informs him that she's a physicist.
  • There was a related exchange in an episode of the old animated The Real Ghostbusters cartoon between The Chick and the Plucky Comic Relief on an episode with weird weather. "Besides, we're not meteorologists. We are scientists." "A meteorologist is a scientist."
  • In Futurama, amazingly Doctor Zoidberg, who has declared people dead when they have been sitting up and talking, and diagnosed robots with fin-rot, DOES have a doctorate. It is a doctorate in Art History. A reversal in that it's only Zoidberg himself who doesn't seem to realize that this doesn't qualify him to be a medical doctor.
    • An episode from the Uncancelled season reveals that Zoidberg is in fact That Kind Of Doctor... but his field of medical study is xenobiology, meaning that while he's a brilliant surgeon when it comes to all sorts of alien races, he doesn't know squat about human beings. It also reveals that Professor Farnsworth keeps him around in spite of this because they're True Companions.
  • Subverted in Archer:

Cyril: But we'd need a doctor!
Cheryl: So? Krieger's a doctor.
Cyril: Not the medical kind!
Dr. Krieger: Not even the other kind, technically.

  • In Rick and Morty, Beth is a veterinarian who specializes in horses, but claiming she isn't a "real doctor" will trigger her Berserk Button. And for good reason, as even in Real Life, veterinary medicine can often be even harder to master than regular medicine.

Real Life

  • Hitler's Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels demanded that everyone would call him "Doctor Goebbels". His doctorate? Literature.
    • The demand is not that unusual in Germany, where titles are given much more respect than North America. Also, physicians in general are typically referred to as "Ärzt" instead of "Doktor", so the title doesn't quite have the same connotations as in English.
      • People with two doctorates may demand to be addressed as Doctor Doctor X (although it's kind of cumbersome and no one actually ever does so). People with a Professorate and a separate Doctorate generally will be addressed as Professor Doctor, though not usually in everyday conversation.
    • On the other hand, some teachers with a doctorate or professor's degree at some universities and schools don't insist on being called "Professor/Dr. (name)", and even discourage it in many cases. At many other colleges and universities, however, "Doctor So-and-so" or "Professor So-and-so" is the established way for a student to address their doctorate-holding instructor, and to do otherwise would come across as, at worst, very rude.
  • Uwe Boll also has a doctorate in literature. Good luck finding an unironic mention of him as "Doctor Boll", though.
  • Doctoral students everywhere. After going through the very long, sometimes soul-sucking process of actually getting that PhD, you damn well want some acknowledgement for it. And yet the public insists on thinking that all doctors are physicians.
  • The radio talk therapist Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a doctor of physiology, not psychiatry. Not false advertising exactly (she's perfectly entitled to put Dr. before her name), but misleading.
  • Aversion: Every university graduate in Italy is referred to as "Dottore" or "Dottoressa." Unless, that is, they have some more prestigious title, such as "Avvocato" (avocado lawyer) or even better, "Ingegnere" (engineer).
    • It's so pervasive that many people will tend to automatically address as "dottore" someone who seems to be of high status. Also, even some non-graduates may be addressed by a title if their profession commands respect: the most common example is "Geometra" (a skilled construction technician, who has authority to approve some civil engineering projects).
  • Dr. Phil is not a medical doctor, but has a doctorate in psychology.
    • He also has no license to practice, having officially retired in 2006. Apparently his TV show counts as "entertainment" rather than "psychology", so it's not against the law for him to continue hosting it.
  • The degree handed out by Law Schools is called a Juris Doctor, and yet no one ever refers to lawyers as "Doctor".
    • Only some law schools give out JD, others hand out Bachelor of Law or Master of Law. All are generally considered the same thing except in name. It is also possible in some places to become a lawyer without having attended law school.
      • All U.S. law schools award the J.D. as the first professional degree in law, while the Master of Law (LL.M.) is an advanced degree in certain specialized areas of law (most commonly taxation). Law schools in other common law jurisdictions (e.g., the UK, Canada, Australia) award the Bachelor of Law (LL.B.) as the first professional degree. In the UK at least, it is possible to get an LL.M. one year after completing the LL.B. and before (or even without) attending law school itself.
    • Of course, this is very specific to the respective jurisdictions. In others, the legal system may be completely different. For example, in the German-speaking part of Europe (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), there is no law school as in the U.S., but legal studies are a "normal" course of studies at university: first you get a Bachelor of Arts degree, afterwards a Master of Arts degree. Then you may or may not become a doctorate student, which will give you simply a PHD in Law; the important part is taking the Advocate exam (which you can do as soon as you have a MA degree). If you pass the exam, you get the title "RA" or "Rechtsanwalt" (literally "Lawyer"), so it is common for lawyers to use two titles: "RA Dr. McCoolname" - which would translate roughly to "G. McCoolname, PHD, JD".
    • In Crossing Jordan, when Dr. Jack Slocum takes over, his office door reads "Jack Slocum MD, PhD, JD". So he's all three kinds of doctor!
      • One imagines that he has an uncomfortable time at medical and legal conventions, given the lawyer jokes and doctor jokes that tend to fly at such events.
    • Madalyn Murray O'Hair actually was commonly referred to as "Dr. O'Hair" in American Atheist publications, though technically she earned a L.L.B which was later converted when all first professional law degrees in the US were automatically changed to JDs. (However, her school wasn't ABA approved so she couldn't sit for the bar exam.) Though in an inversion, she most likely was hoping to be mistaken for "not that kind of doctor", because despite her public legal battles earlier in her life, her articles by this point tended to delve into history, and obviously a Ph.D., especially if it was assumed to be in some kind of study of history as would be assumed for a doctor writing papers on history without mentioning otherwise, would add far more credibility to her many less-than-mainstream views (and because, as previously mentioned, no lawyer without a M.D. or Ph.D. refers to themselves as a doctor in the first place, so gaining legal credibility wouldn't make sense unless she hoped to be mistaken for a Doctor of Juridical Science, who do refer to themselves as "doctor").
  • First Lady Jill Biden has been criticized for using the title because she's not that kind of doctor; her degree is in Education.
  • Nutritionist Gillian McKeith, who "voluntarily" stopped calling herself Dr. Gillian McKeith on the grounds she wasn't a medical doctor, just before the Advertising Standards Authority insisted that she stop calling herself that because the college she got her PhD from was "not accredited by any recognised educational authority".
    • In other words, not only is she Not That Kind of Doctor, she's not actually any kind of doctor.
      • According to the book Bad Science, that was in fact the Advertising Standards Authority's actual take on the situation. The part about the specific concern that people would mistake her for a health professional (that kind of doctor, to be specific) was just her own spin she gave when she was explaining her decision to stop using the title. For the ASA adjudication, the criticism was that people would assume that her advice was coming from the someone holding the position of a recognized Ph.D. or M.D.
  • There was once a controversy in the letters page of the Financial Times as to whether an individual was entitled to be addressed as "Dr" or not, with the paper taking the position that they would award the title to Ph.D.s but only if the FT had seen proof that the individual had completed a doctorate. One reader commented that they should check whether surgeons had earned the title of "Mr."
  • Dr. Susan Block, best known for her sex advice, got her graduate and post-graduate degrees in philosophy, though "with an emphasis in psychology" and her undergraduate degree was in theater studies.
  • Having grown up the child of a university administrator, this troper would like to point out that it's fairly common for this to come into play among staff members. Doctorates in business, literature, engineering and history are formally addressed in pretty much the same way, especially with letters and public addresses, as a sign of respect.
  • Theodor Geisel, AKA "Dr. Seuss", was technically a doctor, his degree being a a D.Phil. in English Literature from Oxford; the "Dr." part of his signature was merely a pen name.
  • Field Marshal Blücher was given an honorary doctorate (in law) by Oxford University. But then his work did contribute to medical science
    • As did that of the Duke of Wellington who was similarly honoured the same day, June 14, 1814. Blücher at the time joked that if they made him an honorary doctor they should also make Gneisenau, his chief of staff, an honorary apothecary. He and Gneisenau got honorary doctorates (in philosophy) from Berlin University later that year.
  • In one of dialects of my language 'physicist' meant physician. Nucleus shares the word with kernel. So when female presented herself as nuclear physicist... (given—it was in time when nuclear physics what esoteric area of physics and 'no one' heard of it).
  • Dr. Dre did not attend any university. He does have an honorary degree in Street Knowledge, though.
  • Despite his claims to the contrary, creationist Kent "Dr. Dino" Hovind does not hold a valid doctorate. He bought his "degree" from a non-accredited "university" where he Did Not Do the Research.
  • Dr Pepper and its knockoffs (of course)
  • Sir Doctor Stephen Colbert, DFA. Doctorate of Fine Arts, an honorary degree or one given to a graduate student of the highest caliber. It means he has made a contribution to the field, and human knowledge.
  • Dr. Karl Sven Woytek Sas Konkovitch Matthew Kruszelnicki (usually called Dr. Karl), igNobel Laureate and science guy, has not done a PhD. He has a lot of degrees, but he's "Dr." because of a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery.
  • Dr. Hunter S. Thompson received an honorary doctorate from the Universal Life Church in the late sixties. Not sure what for, but he liked calling himself a "doctor of journalism" and having people referring to him as such.
  • Several nurses have doctorates in nursing, which entitles them to be called "doctor." This causes some friction with physicians.
  • Dr. Lewis Yablonski is a sociologist who in 1967 visited several hippie communes and residences to gather information for a book (later titled The Hippie Trip). When he went to Morningstar in Northern California, he said "I'm Dr. Yablonski, they're expecting me" and the man who greeted him immediately turned around and called out "The doctor's here! Is anyone sick?"
  • According to AP style, the Dr. honorific is only supposed to be used for actual medical doctors.
  • Derek Smart, the man behind Battlecruiser 3000AD and Universal Combat, claims to possess a doctorate and frequently titles himself as Ph.D, but his thesis is not listed anywhere, and he has not divulged basic details about his doctorate, such as which college he attended or who was his supervisor. There's understandable suspicion that he's lying.
  1. With one famous exception who travels in a TARDIS.
  2. Historically, being a doctor (the equivalent to GP today) was considered a more upper-class and gentlemanly career than surgery, as they do not have to get their hands dirty. Most surgeons are simply working-class barbers. However when the modern era rolled around and surgery become a more specialized and prestigious line of work than mere doctoring, the surgeons refused the title of Doctor as a sort of passive-aggressive middle-finger to the snobs who denied them the title 300-ish years previously.
  3. indicates an honorary degree
  4. A Doctor of Divinity is a degree in theology, that Christian clergy often have