How to address a Military Doctor / Armed Services Physician

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   1. Formula For
       How to Address     
   2. Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    

   3. Q&A on
       How to Address
       Retired Military   
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How to Address a Military Doctor / Physician
or Armed Services Personnel with a Doctorate
or Other Academic Post-Nominal Abbreviation

Envelope, official:
    (Rank)(Full name), (Branch of Service)    (see note below)
        (Name of practice, hospital, or clinic)

   CAPT Robert W. Thompson, USNMC              (see note below)
        Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
            8901 Wisconsin Avenue
                  Bethesda, MD, 20814

Letter salutation:
    Dear (Rank)(surname):


NOTE: All members of the Armed Services are addressed by rank. Those with a advanced academic degree will have that noted in their bio/CV. "Dr." or "PhD.", "M.D.", "MBA", etc. are never used with a military rank. Armed Services medical personnel's branch of service abbreviation will reflect their medical corp or service.

Site updated by Robert Hickey on 14 January 2019

FYI, here is what's come in to the Blog that relates to this office/rank.
   For recent questions sent in, check out Robert Hickey's Blog.

   For specific offices/ranks, check out Robert Hickey's On-Line Guide.

How to Socially Address An Invitation to
An Officer
(Who Is an M.D.) & His Spouse?
      My fiance and I are having a terrible time addressing some of our envelopes for our wedding. We have a number of high-ranking military officials that are retired and are medical doctors.
      For example we have a three star retired general (US Army) -- a Lieutenant General who is a physician.
      How do I write this: Lieutenant General James Doe, MD, Retired and Mrs. Janice Doe???
      Does Mrs. Janice Doe go on another line I would assume?
      We are including the women's names on our envelopes because I am a bit of a feminist and hate the idea of leaving off any reference to the woman's identity.
      Thanks for your help!
        -- Carrie Worsham

Dear Ms. Worsham,
    The most formal forms, e.g. how The White House would address an invitation to a Lieutenant General and his wife.  (BTW, they use my book.)
    1) No M.D.: Never use an academic degree with a military rank.
    2) The name of the person with the rank goes first.
    3) You can address your wedding invitations however you like, but as you infer it's traditional that when a couple uses the same last name ... and the woman uses "Mrs." ... woman's first name is not included.    
    Traditionally use of Mrs. (first name) + (last name) indicates a woman is divorced -- e.g., it's how she would be listed on a wedding invitation if they were no longer married, but she and her former husband were hosting the wedding.
    4) Branch of service and retired status are not used on social correspondence.
      So on the mailing envelope:
           Lieutenant General James Doe
      and Mrs. Doe
      And on the inside envelope you use 'conversational forms":
      General Doe and Mrs. Doe
    Or if they are family or very close friends
     Jim and Janice
        Uncle Jim and Aunt Janice
            -- Robert Hickey

How to Write the Official Name
of A Retired Military Physician?

     I am framing a photo for my husband Robert who was at the time the photo was a recently-retired medical doctor (Captain) from the U. S. Navy.  If I include a label below the photo, should it say, name-rank-M.D., or rank-name-M.D,
rank-name-Medical Corps or only rank-name?
    I would sincerely appreciate any wisdom you could lend to my dilemma.
        -- Janice Larsen

Dear Ms. Larsen,
    As a retired officer the the official form of his name would be:
        Captain Robert Larsen, USN, Ret.

    or ...
        Captain Robert Larsen, USN, Retired

    1) Professional post-nominal abbreviations are not used with a rank, so no M.D.
    2) Protocol officers consistently maintain that one retires from the USN, not a corp within the USN, so just USN is enough. The DoD style manuals don't include the 'corp' designations in their samples for retired personnel as it does with active-duty personnel: Captain Robert Larsen, MC, USN.  I don't know that it's wrong to include the corps with a retired name, but I just know they don't show it as a suggested form. I only try and interpret what the DoD puts out, and they don't include it.
    3) Everyone in the armed services is addressed by their rank -- whether they are a fighter pilot, commandant, doctor, lawyer, or mechanic. Next comes their branch of service, Last is a notation of their retired status if they are retired.

            -- Robert Hickey

How to Address Military Personnel
With Academic Degrees On an Invitation?

    My fiance has a friend who is a medical doctor who is also on active duty with a rank of Captain in the Air Force, where he practices medicine.  How should we address the wedding invitation? 
          -- Carol B.

Dear Carol B.:
    All active-duty armed service personnel are addressed as:
            (Rank) + (Name)
    For a written address, there are different forms for "official" and "social" correspondence: I cover that in detail in my chapter on Forms of Address for US Armed Services in my book.  Here's the answer:

    On social correspondence post-nominal abbreviations are not used ... thus there no USAF and MSC with his name.
    A wedding invitation's mailing envelope uses the social form:

            Captain William Blake
    If you are using inside envelopes, the form is to use you would call him, and most formally that would be:
              Captain Blake
    He might identify himself as Dr. as he enters an exam room where the patient sits in a backless paper gown ... But in the military, the etiquette is to address all personnel by rank ... one's rank is the most important information: how one serves is important, but is of secondary importance.

          -- Robert Hickey

How to List Military Personnel
With Academic Degrees In a Program?

recently attended a funeral for a retired Rear Admiral who was also a Navy doctor. Was it proper to refer to him in on the cover of the program as:

RADM (name), M.D.

      Was that correct?
              -- Vic M. in Pew #44
Dear Vic M.:
Correct by U.S. Department of Defense guidelines would have been:
   RADM (full name), Medical Corps, USN
     1) Abbreviating "Rear Admiral" to the military abbreviation RADM is standard at military events.
     2) In the official form of address, branch of service follows the name, in this case -- Medical Corps, USN.
     3) There's a rule no academic degree is used with a military rank -- so M.D.
-- or any other academic post-nominal abbreviation never follows a name preceded by a rank. ... so never use Captain (full name), MBA,  General (full name), JD or Major General (full name), PhD.
     4) Finally, in the armed services everyone is addressed and identified by rank. How they serve is important (in this case as a doctor) but by their rank is how their name is written.
           -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Member of the Military & Dentist? 
       How do I address an envelope to a Navy captain and a dentist who are married?
                Captain Joshua & Dr. Brooke Jones?
       -- D. Bainbridge

Dear Mr. D. Bainbridge:

        Most formally people with titles and ranks get their names as a unit ... not combined with another person's name. Since he is in uniform ... military uniformed personnel have precedence over civilians ... so the USN Captain is listed first.
        So the form would be:
                Captain Joshua Jones
                and Dr. Brooke Jones
       -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Military Officer and a Medical Doctor?
What is the correct form for a joint salutation when the wife is a medical doctor and the husband is a Colonel (not sure of the branch)? They share the same last name.  Is there a hierarchy to which is listed first?
    Same question for the address on the envelope: Should the male go first or does a Dr. trump a Colonel regardless of the gender?
         -- Jeanie Farrell in Arkansas

Dear Ms. Farrell:
    1) One doesn’t specify the branch of service on a social letter ... so you are off the hook!  When writing an official letter to a Colonel at his office ... you would include USA or USAF after his name ... and you would need to find out the branch.
    2) In this combination the Colonel goes first: he has an official rank. The doctor has an academic degree, but
not an official rank.
    3) Wives of officials are usually written as  "Mrs. (surname)", but since she’s a “Dr.”, it would be acceptable to use her first and last name as I suggest below.
    On the envelope write this line for line (does not have to be indented however):
    Colonel John Wilson
       and Dr. Mary Wilson
    In the salutation write:
    Dear Colonel Wilson and Dr. Wilson,
         -- Robert Hickey

     I have a follow-up question. I have been under the assumption that if a couple shares the same last name it is not necessary to repeat it in the joint salutation or the joint mail name. Is it wrong in your opinion to say?
        On the envelope: Colonel John and Dr. Mary Wilson 
     In the salutation: Dear Colonel and Dr. Wilson
     Thank you so much,
         -- Jeanie Farrell in Arkansas

    I always suggest the most formal way ... figuring formal is never wrong ... and being casual might be. And the most formal way to write any name is do so completely, all on a line by itself.
        Colonel John Wilson
            and Dr. Mary Wilson

    When the couple uses the same last name and the wife uses Mrs. -- you see the following used on a holiday cards but not on anything very formal:
        Colonel and Mrs. John Wilson

    Most formally it's:
        Colonel John Wilson
            and Mrs. Wilson

    When it's the woman who is the official it becomes:
        Colonel Mary Wilson
            and Mr. John Wilson

    Men using the same last name get their full names, wives don't. That's the tradition!
    A salutation is based on what one calls the other in conversation.
      Most formally in a salutation use: Dear Colonel Wilson and Dr. Wilson,
      Less formally in a salutation use: Dear Colonel and Dr. Wilson,    
    I'd use on of the formal salutations until I was ready to use simply Dear John and Mary,
    -- Robert

How to Address a Military Officer & Medical Doctor
... But They Use Different Last Names?

     I need to address an envelope for a husband and wife who use different last names. The woman is a M.D. medical doctor and her husband is a captain in the military.
         -- Pat

Dear Pat,

      1. Standard protocol is that a person with a rank will have higher precedence than a person without a rank. So the captain's name is first. (See also #4 below.)
      2. If this social correspondence then his branch of service ... USA or USN ... is not included. Official would include situations when you are writing to him as a Captain ... and it was regarding his service in the the Armed Forces
      3. If this is social correspondence then she is "Dr." before ... not "MD" after
         Captain William Henderson
      and Dr. Mary Smith
      4. If she is the invited guest and he is being invited as a courtesy ... as her escort ... then the precedence reverses. The guest is granted higher precedence and the guest's name is first.
         Dr. Mary Smith
             and Captain William Henderson
    FYI, your question is answered in my book in my chapter on joint forms of address.

    -- Robert Hickey

How to address a doctor?  See also ...
     How to address a dentist     
     How to address a chiropractor        
     How to address a medical doctor    
     How to address a military doctor  
     How to address a veterinarian     
     How to address a person holding an academic doctorate    
     How to address an optometrist
     How to address an osteopath     

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For forms of address for invitations, place cards, name badges, introductions, conversation, and all other formal uses, see Honor & Respect: the Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address.

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Photo: Marc Goodman.

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