Dr. Moffic attempts to answer this question in Clinical Psychiatry News:
A flight attendant came down the aisle asking whether there was a doctor on the plane. My wife must have thought I was one, and told the flight attendant so. She then woke me and told me of the concern.
Was I a “real” doctor? After all, hadn't I been writing about how psychiatrists' medical backgrounds should distinguish them from psychologists, even to the extent that I suggested that our next diagnostic manual should only be for us? But being a “real” doctor in real life is far different from just writing about it. Was this some sort of cosmic test for me?
My wife, who is a psychiatrist, has volunteered my medical services on a flight before.
There are some inaccuracies in Dr. Moffic's article:
These days, a medical internship is the first of the 4 years of psychiatric residency training, and consists exclusively of medical rotations, including neurology.
A psychiatric internship is not the same as a medical internship. A typical psychiatry internship consists of 4 month of medicine, 1-2 months neurology, and 6-7 months of psychiatry. Most psychiatrists are ill-prepared to treat medical illness.