17 Famous “Doctors” Who Don’t Actually Practice Medicine


We tend to accord health care professionals places of special honor. And, of course, one of the most prestigious titles in health care is that of “doctor.” Indeed, even though there are a number of great health professionals, from nurses to nurse practitioners to dedicated assistants, doctors are often seen as being at the top. Adding a “Dr.” to the beginning of a name automatically bestows an air of authority. However, there are many doctors who don’t actually practice medicine. These can be those who have doctorate degrees in a specific area not related to medicine, or even those who have “doctor” as a nickname. Here are 17 famous “doctors” who don’t actually practice medicine:

Real People

There are plenty of real people who are “doctors”. You won’t see them in emergency rooms or clinics, though.

  1. Dr. Laura: One of the most famous “doctors” out there is Dr. Laura Schlessinger. She has her own talk show, where she uses her no-nonsense opinion to help others solve their problems (or just tell them how stupid they’re being). Dr. Laura has also authored self-help books, many of them focuses on what women can do to improve their lives. But why is she a “doctor”? Because she has a Ph.D. in physiology from Columbia University. She may not have a degree in psychology, but she understands the human psyche fairly well.
  2. Dr. Phil: Another famous “doctor” is Dr. Phil. Phil McGraw got his start on Oprah, helping people sort out their various relationship problems. Dr. Phil’s “tough love” approach became popular and his confrontational style garnered rave reviews. Eventually, he became a TV star in his own right, and has his own show, even though he still appears on Oprah. He has a Ph.D. in psychology, but his credentials to practice clinically lapsed in California, as came out during the Britney Spears intervention.
  3. Dr. Ruth: Ruth Westheimer has a Ph.D. in education. But she has become famous for her frank discussions about sex and sexuality. Dr. Ruth was a sharpshooter and scout with Haganah, and was injured in action in 1948. She belongs to two synagogues, and does her best to keep her faith in her life, even though many may cavil at her openness about sex. She focuses on the importance of safe sex and sexual empowerment. Indeed, the 55th anniversary issue of Playboy lists Dr. Ruth as the thirteenth most important person related to sex during the 55 years of the publication.
  4. Dr. Henry Kissinger: We hear about “Doctor Kissinger” a lot, and we know that he is considered one of the great statesmen of modern times. He has been well-known in foreign affairs — and for good reason. His Ph.D. is in international relations. Not only was Dr. Kissinger Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, but he has consulted with numerous U.S. presidents since then, and is not shy about expressing his opinions on issues of international note. He was instrumental in opening relations with China, and in other accomplishments, including receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
  5. Dr. Dre: Andre Romelle Young probably doesn’t ring any bells for you. However, you probably have heard of Dr. Dre. No, he isn’t a “real” doctor. But he is known for his musical accomplishments. He is credited with being a major influence in the rap world, bringing West Coast G-funk rap into popularity. He is found in close association with Eminem (he mentored the young rap star), 50 Cent, and Snoop Dogg. Dr. Dre is a record executive and even has some acting credits under his belt. He is one of the most recognized “doctors” out there.
  6. Doc Holliday: John Henry Holliday was a dentist. However, he gave up dentistry, moved West to improve his health, and became a gambler and someone who was rather handy with a gun. He died in 1887, and is one of the central figures of the American Wild West. Even though he had credentials as a doctor, Doc Holliday was known as much for his skill in dentistry. Indeed, most people these days remember him as a friend to famous lawman Wyatt Earp and for his role in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
  7. Doc Severinsen: Another musician, Doc Severinsen was known for his ability to play the trumpet and the cornet. He got his nickname as a child. His father was a dentist, and the folks in his hometown called him “Little Doc”. He kept the “doc” as he grew older and became famous. He was known for his flashy style and his leisure suits. He was a fixture on The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson years from 1962 to 1992, becoming the musical director in 1967. He may not have a degree in medicine, or a Ph.D., but he certainly is a “doctor”.
  8. Doc Watson: Arthel Lane Watson was a famous musician, known for his great picking skills on the guitar. He specializes in bluegrass, folk and blues. He performed regularly with his son, Merle, whom he has outlived. Doc Watson is well known for his role in the folk music revivals in the still considered an influential bluegrass musician. His nickname actually came during a live radio show, when the announcer said that Arthel was strange — and difficult to say. Someone in the crowd made a reference to the famous Dr. Watson, of Sherlock Holmes fame, and the name “Doc” has stuck since.
  9. Dr. J: One of the most famous basketball players of all time, Julius Erving was known as Dr. J. Erving is known as one of the players that ushered what we known as modern basketball. He was known for his spectacular dunks, and the “slam dunk” is widely credited for being popularized by Dr. J. His style of play was flashy and exciting. He won three championships, and was awarded four MVP awards. He holds the distinction of being #5 on the list of high scoring basketball players. He is a Hall of Fame member, and a member of the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time team. All of this without every holding scalpel.
  10. Dr. Bill Cosby: On TV, the fictional Dr. Cosby was a doctor. But Bill Cosby, the stand up comedian turned actor, didn’t have that distinction in real life. However, all of that changed when he went to the University of Massachusetts and got a Ph.D. in education. Now, Dr. Bill Cosby truly is a doctor — even if he doesn’t practice medicine.

Fictional Doctors

There are plenty of fictional doctors who don’t practice medicine — even in fantasy. Here are some of the most famous non-medical “doctors” who don’t actually exist.

  1. Dr. Seuss: Millions of children read books by Dr. Seuss in classrooms all over the country — and around the world. The Cat in the Hat is probably the most famous Dr. Seuss book, but there are many, many more, including the holiday favorite, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Dr. Seuss, though, is the pen name of Theodor Geisel. He intended to become a “doctor”, earning a Ph.D. from Oxford, but he never finished. Giesel was also a cartoonist, and was known for his humor.
  2. Dr. Winston O’Boogie: Harry Nilsson was a pop songwriter who went out every now and again with someone named Dr. Winston O’Boogie. This “doctor” also got some mention as a songwriter on the album Pussycats. However, O’Boogie wasn’t actually a real person. Instead it was the pen name of one of the most famous musicians ever — John Lennon. It’s no surprise, though, that O’Boogie had some good songwriting credentials. After all, John Lennon was a founding member of The Beatles, and formed, with Paul McCartney, one of the most successful songwriting duos ever.
  3. Dr. No: The first James Bond film, Dr. No, featured a mad scientist as the title character. Dr. No works for SPECTRE, an organization bent on extortion and terrorism. He isn’t the boss, though. James Bond battles him. He has a metallic hand, since he lost his real hand to radiation. Dr. No dies after being hit by radioactive materials. Dr. No is played by Joseph Wiseman. There is no doubt that Dr. No remains a famous “doctor”, and the launching of Bond Villians in the Bond movie franchise.
  4. Dr. Octopus: One of the most dangerous supervillains in the world of comic books, Dr. Octopus threatens Spider Man regularly. Dr. Otto Gunther Octavius is a mad scientist with metallic arms that allow him to manipulate several objects at once. The metallic arms became fused to his body during a radiation leak (radiation can do just about anything). He is also known as “Doc Ock”, and has appeared over the years in Spider Man comics. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Doc Ock is his continuing friendship with Peter Parker’s Aunt May.
  5. Dr. Claw: One of the most well-known “doctors” in fiction is Dr. Claw, the nemesis of TV’s Inspector Gadget. Dr. Claw runs the criminal organization, known as M.A.D. Dr. Claw owns a cat, and pampers this cat. Dr. Claw is known for his convoluted plans, and plots to kill Inspector Gadget as he steals something that is usually large. One of the things about Dr. Claw is that his face is not seen on the cartoon show; only his hand, stroking a cat. This spoofs Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a bond villain.
  6. Dr. Evil: Very few people are not familiar with Dr. Evil, the villain in the Austin Powers movies created by Mike Meyers. Mike Meyers famously plays both Dr. Evil and Austin Powers, as well as other characters. Dr. Evil, like Dr. Claw, is a spoof on the James Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld — although we see quite a lot of Evil’s face. He aims at world domination, helped by his dwarf clone Mini-Me and his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth. Unfortunately for him, Dr. Evil’s complex plans often end in disaster for himself.
  7. Dr. Who: Dr. Who is the time-traveling alien known as the “Doctor”. He is a kick-butt time lord, fighting evil whenever it occurs. It is considered the longest running science fiction television series, and considered the most successful. Dr. Who is played by different characters, and is in his 11th incarnation. It’s easy when you can regenerate. Dr. Who has been fighting villains since 1963, even though there was a hiatus between 1989 and 2005, when the series rebooted. Dr. Who is currently played by Matt Smith.
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