Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons
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Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) is a professional qualification to practise as a senior surgeon in Ireland or the United Kingdom. It is bestowed by the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (chartered 1784), Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (chartered 1505), and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. The initials may be used as post-nominal letters though strictly the plain FRCS should be used to refer to the London College. Several Commonwealth countries have organisations that bestow similar qualifications, among them the FRCSC in Canada, FRACS in Australia and New Zealand, FCS(SA) in South Africa, FCSHK in Hong Kong.
The original fellowship was available in general surgery and in certain specialties—ophthalmic or ENT surgery, or obstetrics and gynaecology—which were not indicated in the initials. It came to be taken mid-way through training.
There are now a range of higher fellowships, taken at the end of higher specialist training and often in narrower fields, the first of which was FRCS (Orth) in orthopaedics. Others include FRCS (Urol) in urology and FRCS (OMFS) in maxillofacial surgery.
Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons
To avoid confusion, the original fellowship was renamed to either membership MRCS or associate fellowship (AFRCS). Unfortunately this introduced a new confusion, as the Royal Colleges also held qualifying examinations in medicine, after which most of them awarded licentiate diplomas (LRCP, LRCS, etc.). However the Royal College of Surgeons of England used to award its membership at this level, in conjunction with the Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians.
Mister or Doctor?
Holders of FRCS (and the new, but not old, Membership – MRCS) often choose for traditional reasons to relinquish their title of "Doctor", reverting to "Mr", "Ms", "Mrs" or "Miss".
Until relatively recently the training as a surgeon was through an apprenticeship, at the end of which, if they had learnt their trade in a large city, they were examined and given a diploma; while physicians from the Middle Ages had to hold a university degree in medicine before they could practise.
Today, for most, the route to Fellowship is lengthy: one must qualify as a Doctor of medicine, then undergo further postgraduate study and training through junior doctor posts before then passing assessments to obtain surgical qualifications. There are some exceptions: honour fellows, consultant podiatric surgeons and surgical care practitioners. At that point many choose to stop prefixing their name with Dr and revert to the prefix they used before qualifying (or one they have since acquired.)
The original 300 Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (FRCS) include:
- John Abernethy (1764–1831)
- John Badley (1783–1870)
- Robert Keate (1777–1857)
- Richard Partridge (1805–1873)
- Joseph Jordan (1787-1873)
- RCS staff (2011), Questions about surgeons: Why are surgeons in the UK called Mr or Miss or Mrs, rather than Dr?, Royal College of Surgeons, archived from the original on 29 June 2012, retrieved November 2011