What are those letters behind my doctor's name?

Some doctors have a string of letters behind their names, while others have just two. What do they mean? Does it matter?

MD- Medical doctor. This is a physician who went to allopathic medical school, which most people would think of as traditional medical school

DO- Doctor of osteopathy. This is a physician who went to osteopathic school, which focuses more on body alignment and has a more holistic approach.

MBBS - Bachelor of Medicine. This is an international medical degree, equivalent to an MD or DO in the United States

Abbreviations that start with the letter F:


FACS - Fellow, American College of Surgeons

FAAFP - Fellow, American Academy of Family Physicians

FAAP - Fellow, American Academy of Pediatrics

These are designations given by the physician’s primary national society.

A national society is a group of physicians from the same specialty who oversees topics like guidelines, national meetings, and often sets the agenda and tone for that field of medicine.

The fellowship designation varies by specialty, but usually involves an application to the specialty society. Areas like participation in the national society, quality improvement, research, and contributions to the field generally count toward the fellowship designation.

The fellowship designation, then, means that the physician is active within his/her national society and field. This is not the same as having expertise or being a good doctor, but rather an acknowledgement of the physician’s participation.

This should be distinguished from a physician who is a fellow.

A fellow is a doctor who has finished residency and is pursuing sub-specialty training. Examples would be an internal medicine doctor who is training to be a cardiologist, or a general surgeon who is training to be a plastic surgeon.

Although the designation is confusing, fellows would not be eligible to apply for the designation of Fellow of a specialty society, which is reserved for physicians who have been in practice for some time.

Then there are the additional degrees a physician may have that are not specific to medicine. These are degrees like a Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and Master of Public Policy (MPP). These will help the physician in other areas but may not be directly applicable to a physician’s clinical practice.

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