When it comes to matters of your health, you have every right to choose the best doctor to suit your needs. Understanding the difference between a licensed doctor and a doctor who has completed the additional years of education and fellowship training is imperative to receiving the most appropriate treatment for your condition.

A licensed doctor refers to an individual who completed medical school and is licensed to practice in a specific state. This typically means the individual has completed a 4-year Bachelor's degree, a 4-year medical degree at an accredited medical university, any residency requirements, and has been approved by their state’s licensing board.

A fellowship specialty trained doctor has completed all of the schooling and licensure of a licensed doctor, with the addition of rigorous examinations and years of additional training in a specific area of medicine. In some cases, this can mean additional training all over the country and thousands of dollars in additional exam and registration fees. But the difference between a licensed doctor and fellowship-trained specialized doctor is more than just the certification itself: the years of additional training and collaboration with other experts of the field are far more important.


A doctor does not have to be fellowship-trained to practice medicine or even practice within the specialty. This means the doctors that go forward with additional training and exams choose to do so for the benefit of their patients. These doctors could easily begin to practice within a specialty without the added knowledge, but their patient care comes above the time-consuming and expensive obstacles.

Better Patient Outcomes

Additional training in a specialized area is obviously linked to better care for patients: if you spend more time doing something, you’re more than likely going to get better at it. But being a part of alumni organizations filled with other doctors committed to training in their specialty improves communication across the field and only improves approaches to procedures and, in turn, the patient’s outcome. This can come in the form of reduced recovery time, reduced pain and reduced risk of additional surgeries or treatments down the road.

Guaranteed Expertise

Patients do not have to second-guess if they are receiving the best care in the field. While any patient should have a trusting relationship with their doctor, a specialized doctor is guaranteed to have more knowledge on their specific specialty than a general practicing doctor.

Picking the right doctor for your care is a deeply personal choice. While factors of proximity, gender, and overall reviews are important, training within the specialty you are receiving care for should make your list of requirements as well. All of our doctors at Summit Orthopaedics are fellowship or specialty trained in orthopedics and many have additional training in specific sub-specialties such as sports medicine and trauma. To review our doctors’ individual medical training, please visit our physicians page for more information.